RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Newly empowered Republican lawmakers in Virginia who opposed legalizing easy possession of marijuana say they don’t need to scrap the law, however they do need to make important changes.
Those changes might embody transferring up the beginning date for retail gross sales and eliminating a provision that will give licensing desire to individuals who have been convicted of marijuana crimes.
Republicans have filed no less than eight payments that decision for amendments to the 2021 law that legalized grownup possession of as much as an oz. of marijuana and laid the bottom work for retail gross sales to start in 2024.
“The overriding top-tier concern is that we have to have a regulatory structure in place for retail sales that does not encourage the black market,” stated Garren Shipley, a spokesperson for House Speaker Todd Gilbert.
The law was handed alongside strict celebration strains, with Democrats supporting legalization and Republicans voting in opposition to it. At the time, Democrats managed each the House and Senate. Republicans took management of the House in the November election, successful a 52-48 majority over Democrats. Democrats nonetheless maintain a slight 21-19 majority in the Senate.
A reenactment clause in the law requires the legislature to vote once more this yr on a fancy regulatory construction for retail gross sales, leaving open the chance Republicans might push by way of changes in how the licensing course of will work, who shall be given a bonus when making use of for licenses and the way tax income from marijuana gross sales shall be spent by the state.
Democrats who supported legalization and advocates for folks convicted of marijuana crimes are involved the changes proposed by Republicans will strip the law of “social equity” provisions designed to assist individuals who have been harm by previous marijuana legal guidelines.
“A lot of people have been overly penalized and overly policed and overly suffered because of our misguided policies of the past, and it’s time they stop suffering, and in fact have a chance to make up some lost ground in ways that their lives have been impacted,” stated Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin, a chief sponsor of the 2021 legalization laws.
Republican Del. Michael Webert is sponsoring a multipronged invoice that will make a number of important changes, together with redirecting the 30% of tax revenues from marijuana gross sales at the moment earmarked for a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund to a fund that will be used to rebuild crumbling college buildings across the state.
“We are trying to ensure that the money goes to where it’s most needed,” Webert stated. “To be in a good school environment, to provide a good, safe school building and an atmosphere in which a child can learn will be a great asset for that person’s future.”
A separate invoice filed by Sen. Tommy Norment would funnel 30% of the income from marijuana gross sales into the state’s normal fund as an alternative of the reinvestment fund, which was included in the 2021 law as a strategy to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by stringent drug legal guidelines, significantly communities of colour. Both proposals are drawing criticism from social justice advocates.
“I’m really struck by this attempt to defund equity and reinvestment when we have committed to legalizing in a way to bring some kind of benefit to people impacted by the war on drugs,” stated Chelsea Higgs Wise, govt director of Marijuana Justice.
Webert’s invoice additionally would get rid of a provision that calls for giving particular consideration to social fairness license candidates, together with individuals who have been convicted of marijuana crimes or members of their quick households. It leaves in 2021 provisions that will give desire to individuals who stay in economically distressed areas and for individuals who attended a traditionally black faculty or college in Virginia.
“I believe that if you commit a crime and serve your time, you should have a seat at the table, but it shouldn’t put you at the front of the line,” Webert stated.
Webert’s invoice would additionally slash the general tax price on marijuana gross sales from 21% to 10%, a step he stated he believes is critical to encourage folks to purchase from the authorized market as an alternative of the black market.
Several Republican-sponsored payments suggest transferring up the date for retail gross sales to start in 2023 as an alternative of 2024 by promoting by way of current medical marijuana operators. Other GOP payments name for giving desire for marijuana cultivation facility licenses to farmers who’ve legally grown hemp in Virginia and farmers from economically distressed areas of the state.
Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who took workplace Jan. 15, has stated that whereas he is not going to attempt to repeal private possession, he does have severe issues about items of the invoice that set up the business market.
“It includes forced unionization, is concerning to law enforcement, and establishes an unstable market that includes anti-competitive business provisions that set Virginia up to fail,” stated Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter. “He’s ready to work in good faith to address these and other issues in concert with the General Assembly.”
JM Pedini, govt director of the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, stated many advocates consider the legislature should take motion this yr to maneuver up the date for retail gross sales.
“Continuing to cede control of the cannabis market to untaxed illicit operators is not tenable,” Pedini stated.
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.