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Virginia Becomes First Southern State to Legalize Marijuana

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Lawmakers voted on Wednesday to approve Gov. Ralph Northam’s suggested changes to the bill that will permit adults to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana. The public can begin doing so in July.

What We Know:

  • Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312 passed the General Assembly in February. Gov. Northam then received the bill, and he made many amendments. Last week, Northam recommended that the legislation allow personal use provisions to begin on July 1 instead of January 1, 2024.
  • New polling data shows that 68 percent of voters in Virginia, including Republicans and Democrats, support legalizing marijuana. However, officials on both parties were wary about the bill. GOP Del. Chris Head felt a disregard for the compromise that squeaked out of the chamber and over to Senate. He believes that some activists want marijuana legalized quickly, “consequences be damned.”
  • Republicans did not like an amendment that would allow the government to revoke or suspend licenses. This would happen in cases where an employer refuses to remain neutral regarding any union organizing efforts by employees. The AP states Democrats argued during the legislative session that legalization without a legal market could promote black market growth.
  • The final legislation would let Virginians, ages 21 and up, to possess up to one ounce (28.3 grams) without the intent of distribution in July. Alongside this, people can start home cultivation of up to four plants per household. However, people still cannot use it in public.
  • Legal retail sales will take longer than legalized possession, says the Associated Press. Senate Bill 1406 explains the state will have a new agency to supervise the marijuana marketplace. Sales will begin between January and July of 2024. Regulations will also be in effect that year.
  • Additional amendments made by Northam will authorize the sealing of records related to misdemeanor crimes of marijuana possession with the intent to distribute. The sealing process will begin July 1, 2021. Also, courts will expunge records with simple possession by 2025. People with reports of felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute may start to petition the courts for erasure in 2025. Individuals currently incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses can be re-sentenced by having a hearing before the court that originally sentenced them. Legal counsel will be provided for poverty-stricken people. A re-enactment will occur in 2022.
  • Axios reports that Northam pushed for immediate legalization after a state-commissioned report found that Black people in Virginia were “disproportionately policed and convicted for marijuana use.” Furthermore, Democrats said the bill was an urgent matter. It was necessary to end a disparate treatment of people of color.

“Today, with the Governor’s amendments, we will have made tremendous progress in ending the targeting of Black and brown Virginians through selective enforcement of marijuana prohibition by this summer,” a statement by Democratic House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said.

  • Recently, Northam has approved multiple medical cannabis measures letting dispensaries have botanical formulations of cannabis. He has expanded telehealth access for patients to protect marijuana-using patients from discrimination in the workplace, says the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). Throughout his term, Northam has supported 41 cannabis-related bills.

Virginia is the first Southern state to legalize marijuana. Additionally, it is the sixteenth state to authorize it in the United States. This will allow more Southern states to bring justice to people of color incarcerated for this issue.

The post Virginia Becomes First Southern State to Legalize Marijuana appeared first on Black News Alerts.

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