After decades of thousands of people jailed for cannabis-related nonviolent crimes, Virginia is on the verge of legalization.
The historically conservative southern state experienced a change of ideology. The General Assembly voted to authorize the possession, manufacture and sale of cannabis so that the sector could gain a foothold in the “mother of states”.
Even if lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate agree to legalize cannabis, chambers have yet to determine what to include in the final draft of the proposed bills before Governor Ralph Northam can take a look.
The Virginia pilot reported that Northam has signaled that he will sign the legislation. Once that happens, cannabis will go on sale in regulated stores from 2024. The tax revenue will be used for public health and pre-K programs, addiction treatment, and eliminating the effects of legalizing the substance.
Delagate Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, is quoted as saying, “There are more deaths from legal drugs … sold at your local CVS and Walgreens causing far more deaths than anything marijuana – cannabis – will do. “
“If you want to help marginalized communities this is an opportunity,” continued Scott. “This is an opportunity to invest in those communities that have been decimated by the so-called war on drugs and to give us an economic leg.”
After a 2018 Daily press Research found that black Virginians were much more likely to be charged with cannabis possession and go to jail if convicted, whether or not it was their first offense. Half of the people charged with cannabis possession were African American, although only 20 percent of the state’s population is black.
The recently passed Senate bill highlights the legality of simple ownership from July. Retail sales won’t happen until 2024, however. The House of Delegates passed a similar bill on the same day.
While Virginia’s medical cannabis program has been established for some time, decriminalization took place less than a year ago.
Prior to decriminalization, possession of half an ounce or less of cannabis was punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a fine of $ 500. However, it was more common for license freezes than for jail time. If someone had been convicted twice, they would have spent up to a year in prison and would have been forced to pay a fine of no more than $ 2,500. Concentrated cannabis products sometimes resulted in criminal charges.
According to Virginia MercuryNortham signed a bipartisan bill in May that reduced the fee for up to an ounce of cannabis in any form to a $ 25 fine, which was issued as a ticket. The legislation also banned escalating penalties for multiple violations.
“It was a good first step, but more is needed,” Portsmouth Senator Louise Lucas said of decriminalization in Virginia. “The (Senate) bill is the next step.”