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Virginia is getting real on legalization and aims to move the start date to 2021

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RICHMOND, VA – The Virginia House of Representatives spokeswoman said Friday she supported moving the date for legalizing adult marijuana use in Virginia to this summer, a major change pushed by advocates approved by lawmakers last month have sharply criticized approved laws and would delay legalization until 2024.

The law is currently delaying legalization until 2024 because … why exactly?

Democratic spokeswoman Eileen Filler-Corn announced on Twitter that she would support a change in the law with the date of legalization on July 1st.

“Now is the time for us to act,” she said.

Filler-Corn said she would press for other changes as well, including a provision that would allow people currently incarcerated for non-violent marijuana-related offenses to be re-sentenced.

Filler-Corn is also calling for a change to automatically seal the criminal record related to marijuana for nonviolent offenses on July 1st. She also wants the legislation to be changed to legalize the private cultivation of “limited numbers” of marijuana plants for personal use.

“Legalization is not enough”

Spokeswoman Filler-Corn also urged her colleagues to do more about the historical and current inequalities in the enforcement of cannabis laws.

“We also need to look at the historical alignment of black and brown people with nonviolent marijuana-related crimes,” she tweeted, referring to the three additional amendments she had proposed. “Legalization alone is not enough.”

connected

Virginia lawmakers will approve marijuana legalization, but not until 2024

A senseless delay

Last month, lawmakers approved a bill to legalize adult recreational marijuana, but not until 2024 when retail sales of the drug would begin and regulations to control the marijuana market in Virginia would go into effect.

With this vote, Virginia became the first southern state to vote to legalize marijuana, joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia. But the bill was harshly criticized by some lawmakers and supporters who wanted simple possession to be legalized quickly to end penalties for people with low levels of marijuana.

Legislature decriminalized marijuana last year and made simple possession a civil penalty, punishable by a fine of no more than $ 25.

Governor thinks better terms

Legislation to legalize simple ownership from January 1, 2024 has been on Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s desk for a month. He has Wednesday to send amendments to the House and Senate for consideration. Northam hasn’t publicly said what changes he wants to make, but suggested in an interview with VPM News on Wednesday that he too would like a faster timeline for legalization.

“Personally, I don’t think we should arrest or punish anyone for something we want to legalize,” said Northam.

Ongoing negotiations

Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky declined to comment directly on Filler-Corn’s announcement.

“Governor Northam continues to have productive discussions with lawmakers and stakeholders about changes to the marijuana legalization law,” Yarmosky said in a statement.

“The Governor is grateful to the General Assembly for their hard work on this important issue and looks forward to further improving this legislation. His top priority is to make sure we legalize marijuana fairly, ”Yarmosky said in a statement.

The House Democrats were behind the 2024 delay

The Senate had tried in its original bill to legalize simple possession on July 1, in order to end the penalties for people with small amounts of marijuana immediately. However, some House Democrats had pushed for a legalization date in 2024, arguing that legalization without a legal market for marijuana could fuel the growth of the black market.

Democratic Senator Jennifer McClellan said Senate support for the July 1 date has not changed.

“I am glad to see that the House appears to be coming to our position on July 1st. It gives me even more confidence that this will happen, ”said McClellan, who is running for governor.

An unpopular start date

The 2024 date was also heavily criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, the Marijuana Justice, and other racial justice advocacy groups.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of Marijuana Justice, said she was delighted that Filler-Corn threw her support behind the July 1 legalization date.

“It sounds like they are making the right changes to meet the demands that racial justice advocates have been pushing. This is really exciting,” she said. “I am really thrilled that the political will has changed … now to lift the ban on simple possession and fix people’s lives through publication, re-sentencing and sealing of records.”

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Beth Edmonds