By Denise Lavoie & Sarah Rankina, Associated Press
(AP) — Virginia lawmakers provided approval that is final week to a bill that will legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, but not until 2024, when retail sales of the drug would also begin.
With a compromise bill clearing the House and Senate, Virginia becomes the first Southern state to vote to legalize marijuana, joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia. The legislation now goes to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, who supports legalization.
The bill was a priority that is top Democrats, whom framed legalization as a required action to get rid of the disparate remedy for folks of color under present cannabis legislation. But speaks between Democrats in the home and Senate expanded tense in present times, and a compromise form of the bill that is massive not emerge publicly until late Saturday afternoon.
“It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would say that we’re on the path to an law that is equitable accountable grownups to utilize cannabis,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, the principle sponsor for the Senate bill.
Several Democrats said they hoped Northam would back send the legislation to them with amendments, including speeding up the date for legalization.
“If we have already made the decision that simple possession should be repealed, we could have done that today and ended the fines that are disproportionate communities of color,” stated Sen. Jennifer McClellan.
“Let’s Be absolutely clear — this bill is not legalization, and there are a complete lot of steps between here and legalization,” she said.
Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said the governor “looks forward to continuing to improve this legislation.”
“There’s still a lot of work ahead, but this bill will help to reinvest in our communities and reduce inequities in our criminal justice system,” she said.
Under the legislation, possession of up to an ounce (28.3 grams) of marijuana will become beginning that is legal. 1, 2024, on top of that product sales begins and laws goes into impact to manage the cannabis market in Virginia.
Under a provision Senate Democrats insisted in, the legislation includes a reenactment clause which will need a vote that is second the General Assembly next year, but only on the regulatory framework and criminal penalties for several offenses, including underage use and public consumption of marijuana. A vote that is second never be needed on legalization.
The Senate had tried to legalize possession that is simple year to immediately end punishments for people with small amounts of marijuana, but House Democrats argued that legalization without a legal market for marijuana could promote the growth of the black market.
Lawmakers last year decriminalized marijuana, making possession that is simple civil penalty that may be penalized by a superb of a maximum of $25.
House Majority Leader Charniele Herring stated that even though the legislation is not perfect, it absolutely was a “justice bill.”
“This moves us in a direction that is strike down and to address those institutional barriers, and over-policing, over-arrests, over-convictions of African Americans who do not use marijuana at a higher rate than our white counterparts, but we seem to get the brunt of criminal convictions,” Herring said.
A recent study by the research that is legislature’s watchdog agency unearthed that from 2010-2019, the common arrest price of Ebony people for cannabis control ended up being 3.5 times greater than the arrest price for white people. The research additionally unearthed that Ebony individuals were convicted for a price 3.9 higher that is times white people.
The bill calls for dedicating 30% of marijuana tax revenue — after program costs — to a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. The money would be used to help communities that have been historically over-policed for marijuana crimes, with funds going toward scholarships, workforce development and job placement services, and low- or loans that are no-interest qualified cannabis businesses.
Virginians who possess a conviction that is marijuana-related have family members with a conviction, or live in an area that is economically distressed could qualify as social equity applicants who would get preference for licenses to get into the marijuana marketplace as cultivators, wholesalers, processors and retailers.
The largest portion of the tax revenue from marijuana sales would go toward funding pre-K for at-risk kids.
The bill drew criticism that is sharp the United states Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and along with other racial justice advocacy teams.
“Today, the Virginia General Assembly did not legalize cannabis for racial justice. Lawmakers paid lip service to the communities which have experienced years of damage brought on by the War that is racist on with legislation that falls short of equitable reform and delays justice,” the ACLU said in a tweet.
Groups that opposed legalization entirely have said they are concerned that it could result in an increase in drug-impaired driving crashes and the use of marijuana among youth.
Republican lawmakers spoke against the measure Saturday night, saying such a issue that is critical a less rushed approach.
“I Would say there are not more than two or three members of this physical human body which have an idea in regards to the comprehensiveness of just what this bill does,” said Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment.
AP Picture Julio Cortez