Virginia joins 15 other states in legalizing marijuana

The vote got here after a convention committee struck a deal on Saturday to reconcile totally different variations of the invoice that handed in each chambers earlier this month.

(*15*)The influence: Virginia is the sixteenth U.S. state to cross an adult-use marijuana legalization regulation, although gross sales wouldn’t begin till 2024. Solely two other states — Illinois and Vermont — have handed laws to legalize, tax and regulate leisure marijuana by way of the legislature.

The transfer places stress on neighboring states resembling Maryland, the place an adult-use legalization invoice bought its first listening to this month. New Jersey additionally just lately enacted legalization, after voters overwhelmingly backed a referendum in November.


(*15*)What’s subsequent: Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has championed legalization as a racial justice concern.

Underneath the compromise legislation, marijuana possession wouldn’t turn out to be authorized till January 2024, when regulated gross sales are scheduled to begin. The state would begin organising a marijuana regulatory company this July.(*15*)

(*15*)The background: The state decriminalized marijuana final 12 months throughout a particular session to deal with legal justice reform. Virginia’s medical marijuana program is simply getting off the bottom, and lawmakers handed a invoice this session that will increase this system to permit marijuana flower merchandise.

Northam endorsed legalization in November and urged lawmakers to cross his proposal throughout his state of the state tackle. The laws was based mostly on two in depth research on the difficulty: a report from his administration and another from the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.

The payments moved shortly by way of the chambers throughout a brief, 30-day session, which Northam prolonged with a particular session of 16 days. Lawmakers tackled thorny points resembling learn how to stop massive firms from taking up the marijuana market, and learn how to deal with automated expungements of marijuana offenses when the legal justice system lacks the know-how to take action.

Opponents of marijuana legalization pointed to public well being issues resembling youth use and impaired driving, in addition to tobacco big Altria’s lobbying on the difficulty. Altria bought a $1.8 billion stake in Canadian hashish firm Cronos Group in 2018.

Marijuana advocates pointed to the harms of the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana offenses in communities of colour. The invoice accommodates strong social fairness provisions, together with(*15*) prioritizing(*15*) enterprise licenses for people deemed to have been disproportionately impacted by legal enforcement,(*15*) which dissuaded some in any other case supportive Republicans from voting for the invoice.

“Initially, I used to be supportive of the method that’s encompassed in this invoice,” mentioned GOP(*15*) Senate Minority Chief Thomas Norment throughout ground debate. Norment pointed to his advocacy of the marijuana decriminalization invoice that handed final 12 months.

“I simply do not settle for this social fairness put aside on the issuance of licenses. We do not do it for alcohol, we do not do it for other issues,” he mentioned.

(*15*)The main points: The invoice would permit adults over 21 to own as much as 1 ounce of marijuana. House cultivation could be allowed beneath the invoice — as much as two mature and two immature crops per family.

The invoice units a 21 p.c excise tax on marijuana and permits municipalities so as to add an extra 3 p.c tax on retailers on high of current gross sales taxes.(*15*) Marijuana tax revenues could be used to fund pre-Ok schooling, substance use dysfunction therapy applications and other public well being initiatives. A portion of revenues would additionally go towards a Hashish Fairness Reinvestment Fund, which would supply assets resembling scholarships and workforce improvement for communities disproportionately impacted by drug enforcement.

Vertical integration could be allowed in restricted circumstances to grandfather in medical hashish producers and industrial hemp processors. Micro-businesses could be allowed to vertically combine as properly.


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