Virginia was poised Sunday to turn into the primary southern state to legalize marijuana after lawmakers authorised a invoice aimed partly at ending disparate remedy confronted individuals of shade within the felony justice system.
The invoice, despatched to Gov. Ralph Northam, would allow possession and retail gross sales of pot efficient in 2024. Northam has expressed help for legalization.
Final week New Jersey formally legalized leisure marijuana, as Gov. Phil Murphy signed into legislation three payments placing into impact a poll query overwhelmingly supported voters final yr. Greater than a dozen states and the District of Columbia permit leisure marijuana use.
Final yr Virginia lawmakers ordered a fee to review and make suggestions for the way Virginia ought to legalize and regulate the expansion, sale, and possession of marijuana. The fee targeted on insurance policies to redress historic inequities and racial injustice attributable to marijuana criminalization.
The examine, launched in November, confirmed that from 2010–2019, the common arrest fee of Black individuals for marijuana possession was 3.5 instances greater than the arrest fee for white individuals. The fee additionally made particular suggestions for legalization with a concentrate on fairness.
“I might say that we’re on the trail to an equitable legislation permitting accountable adults to make use of hashish,” mentioned Sen. Adam Ebbin, the chief sponsor of the Senate invoice.
Sen. Jennifer McClellan expressed disappointment that her proposed modification to legalize possession on July 1 didn’t make the ultimate invoice. The modification would have ended punishments for individuals with small quantities of marijuana, however Home Democrats argued that legalization with no authorized marketplace for marijuana might promote the expansion of the black market.
McClellan mentioned she inspired Northam so as to add it to the invoice he indicators to “deal with the disproportionate penalization” communities of shade have confronted.
McClellan mentioned the state has a “lengthy strategy to go” to enact marijuana legalization in an equitable manner that redresses the harms of prohibition on Black and Brown communities. McClellan additionally backs an modification to offer previously incarcerated people precedence for business distribution licenses.
“The invoice we handed immediately strikes the ball ahead, however let’s be clear: This isn’t marijuana legalization,” McClellan mentioned. “It units up a framework to get us on a path to legalization in 2024.”
Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, mentioned the governor needs to enhance the laws.
“There’s nonetheless numerous work forward, however this invoice will assist to reinvest in our communities and cut back inequities in our felony justice system,” Yarmosky mentioned.
Underneath the laws, possession of as much as an oz of marijuana will turn into authorized the identical day gross sales start and rules will go into impact to manage the marijuana market in Virginia. The laws would require a second vote from the Common Meeting subsequent yr, however solely on the regulatory framework and felony penalties for a number of offenses, together with underage use and public consumption of marijuana.
A second vote is not going to be required on legalization.
Contributing: The Related Press