Marijuana reform is on the horizon for Virginia in 2021, as a lawmaker has filed a bill to legalize marijauana in the state for adult use.
The new legislation would allow adults twenty-one (21) and older to purchase and possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It calls for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) to regulate the cannabis program, as it already does for hemp.
To better understand the steps that were taken towards this seed-to-sale bill, the move came a month after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) included provisions to lay the groundwork for marijuana legalization in a budget proposal that is also asking for millions of dollars in supporting expungements related to cannabis.
This year Virginia is looking at several proposals to end marijuana prohibition, and the bill from Del. Steve Heretick (D) is likely the first of many more that the legislature will see this session.
Heretick stated in a press release,“This bill is built upon the lessons of other states throughout the country which have enacted similar reform.” He further elaborated,“It is time for Virgina to take a very mature and disciplined approach towards marijuana consumption. That VDACS is already working with hemp farmers and testing/manufacturing facilities to ensure products are not only marketable but safe for consumers.”
Use of Taxes
If passed, the bill would grant city councils the right to enact laws creating additional licenses for businesses to sell marijuana products. This would include a nine-point-seven percent (9.7%) tax to be imposed on any and all cannabis sales at a store (first reported by WTKR-TV). Though through some sources, it is said that local jurisdictions could track their own taxes for a maximum total of fifteen percent (15%) compared to the nine-point six percent (9.7%).
In regards to how the taxes would be used, this bill states that most of the tax revenue from cannabis would go to the state’s general fund with the remaining tax to be invested in a fund meant to promote public education about marijuana. Sixty-seven percent (67%) would be allocated for the state’s general fund with the remaining thirty-three percent (33%) for the education of cannabis.
The Concerns, Current Status, & Timeline
Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, told Marijuana Moment, “Virginia legislature must act swiftly to equitably legalize and regulate the responsible use of cannabis by adults in the 2021 General Assembly.”
With the governor, attorney general, and Virginians, it seems clear it is time to legalize cannabis in Virginia. As Del. Steve Hertetick stated, “With the support of Virginia’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, and a growing consensus of bipartisan support from legislators and local leaders around the commonwealth, and now Virginia Governor Northam and key members of his administration, this legislation seems to now have matured for enactment.” Heretick said he is looking forward to a robust and inclusive conversation about the manner in which Virginia will act on this legislation this year.
In the past, the governor had campaigned on merely decriminalizing possession, but he publicly backed broader legalization of adult-use of cannabis last year, which brings more momentum towards this movement- reiterating how Northam has stressed the need to include restorative justice in reform legislation, which includes expungements.
Both the House of Delegates and Senate passed separate expungements bills during a special session this year, but negotiators failed to work out a deal on a unified approach.
Meanwhile, legislation to stop police from searching people or seizing property based solely on the smell of marijuana in Virginia is set to take effect after lawmakers adopted recommended changes from the governor in October. Gov. Northam already signed another bill that will allow those issued summonses for cannabis offenses under the state’s new decriminalization law to prepay their civil penalty rather than having to show up in court.
All in all, the seed-to-sale bill wouldn’t just allow adults to grow up to three (3) mature and three (3) immature plants for personal use, it would also effectively end marijuana prohibition in the state of Virginia.
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