Virginians saw the passing of the legalization bill in the Virginia General Assembly. The statement advocated the legalization of adult-use marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. Given that the retails businesses have already steadied their grip in the state, it was high time that the state eased on weed regulations.
Ever since coming into power, the Democrats have focused on working out the complicated legislation at hand. However, there is much work remaining before Governor Ralph Northam can announce the verdict.
The problem seems to be the difference between the bills from the two chambers. Unless the more significant differences are brought to a consensus, there seems no way forward for the legalization process.
Leafly shares insights on the recent developments in Virginia’s legalization process.
Virginia Can Join States with Legal Recreational Cannabis
The proposed legislation, if approved, will make Virginia the sixteenth state that allows small amounts of weed for recreational purposes. Adam Ebbin is one of the chief patrons that proposed the bill in the chamber. He believes that Virginia is on the right track as far as marijuana legalization is concerned.
Adam admits that the road to legalization may not be easy, but he is hopeful that they can reach a consensus to take the deal forward.
When the house passed the legislation, there was a 55-42 vote in favor of the bill. Likewise, the Senate bill won with 23-15. Hence it indicated how members from both bodies wanted to legalize marijuana in the state.
Even though the bills promote weed legalization, it’s essential to address the differences between them. Hence, we will now explore these differences to understand the delay in legalization.
According to both the bills, possession of an ounce of marijuana would be legal for those 21 years old or higher. By July 1st, the states will begin the expungement process to address marijuana offenses in the past. However, the start dates for the legalization of weed are different in both bills.
The bills promise to start retail sales in 2024. These sales will be supervised by regulatory bodies that will ensure that the large portions of tax amounts go to awareness programs for kids.
Retail Store Regulations
According to the Senate bill, localities can choose not to allow retail sales, requiring approval from lawmakers in this regard. The framework for this process may be finalized by next year.
The process of legalization sped up following the government’s approval for decriminalizing marijuana possession last year. The control of weed is now a civil penalty where offenders must pay a fine of up to $25.
How Northam’s Support Helped
Governor Northam has a critical role to play in the legalization of marijuana in the state. Ever since he took the governor’s position in November last year, he was adamant about bringing the new regulations for Virginia’s people.
He mentioned that there were many reasons to address marijuana-related crimes. One of the most important ones was the discrimination and unequal punishments for the colored community for possession of weed.
His annual address for the lawmakers suggested how Virginia’s legalization laws will provide an even playing field for everyone. He emphasized that the new reforms consider factors like public health, safety, and social equity, so prosperous signs are moving forward.
The Hindrances to Legalization
Even though the legalization is in sight, the road leading to it has not been straightforward. Other than those in power, several other social factors have contributed to the opposition to legalizing marijuana in the state.
Among many factors, religious leaders, law enforcement, and anti-addiction groups were the surface opposers of weed legalization in the state.
According to Regina Whitsett from Substance Abuse Free Environment, Inc., marijuana legalization would mean the rise of drug-impaired driving accidents, especially in the youth. Moreover, edible marijuana can cause accidents and poisoning in children.
According to Whitsett, the state’s aims may be deceiving. In effect, the state aims to commercialize rather than legalize marijuana, which may be a worrying sign leading forward.
Opposers Don’t Have Factual Backing
Even though the opposers of marijuana legalization have become more vocal, their claims do not have factual evidence as support.
Dana Schrad is the executive director at the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. She believes that the law enforcement agents are worried that legalization will increase driving accidents related to marijuana.
According to her, even though weed legalization seems like a profitable venture for the economy, it can bring about higher healthcare costs.
However, there haven’t been any signs of increased cost for healthcare. Moreover, some studies indicate how it can help bring down the opioid addiction rates. Similarly, overdose death rates have also reduced, and minors have no marijuana offenses where it is legalized.
Dispensary Myths About Marijuana Crimes
Considering the opposition claims about safety provisions, both the bills address the precautions regarding advertising, packaging, and consumer behavior related to marijuana. Once legalized, marijuana sales can boost tax revenues in the state.
Moreover, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission suggests that marijuana sales can bring about $154 to $308 million in tax revenue in five years of sales.
According to Charniele Herring, the process needs to speed up because of discrimination against colored communities. One study found that the black community in Virginia has a disproportionately high density of arrested individuals for marijuana-related crimes.
The study summarizes that the arrest rate is 3.5 times higher in black communities, and the conviction rate is almost four times as much as those in the white community.
Weed legalization can bring about a massive difference in the social setup of Virginia. The state requires reforms and legalization to stabilize the economy further.
Also, as the two bills come to a consensus, we can expect more business opportunities for the local retailers to curb the need to import medical marijuana from the other states.