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Virginia regulation has simply handed a regulation to legalize it – however it’s not a deal

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RICHMOND, VA. – Both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly passed law on Friday legalizing marijuana for recreational adult use. Retail sales begin a few years later.

There are real differences between the two bills that passed. These need to be resolved before Governor Ralph Northam can make them official.

Working on the intricate legislation has been a priority for Democrats who control the state government. The process is far from complete, however – there are significant differences between the two chambers’ bills that need to be worked out before they can be sent to Governor Ralph Northam, who could also try to make additional changes.

“I think Virginia is on its way to a fair marijuana legalization plan. There have been a few problems, but I hope we have a polished bill in the next few weeks to agree on, ”said Senator Adam Ebbin, one of the main cartridges of this chamber’s bill.

If the legislation is incorporated into law, Virginia, along with 15 other states and the neighboring District of Columbia, would legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational adult use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The votes weren’t even that scarce

The House passed its version of the legislation by 55-42 votes. The Senate has submitted its Bill 23-15.

The actions of both chambers would legalize possession of an ounce of marijuana or less for people 21 and older, though that provision has different starting dates. Both bills would also start eliminating some previous marijuana-related crimes from July 1.

Retail sales would begin in 2024

Both measures envisage retail sales from 2024, which will be monitored by a newly created regulatory authority. And both would use most of the tax revenue from sales to fund Pre-K for children at risk.

Among the differences between the two bills: The Senate version allows municipalities to refuse permission for retail stores, and it requires a second legislature vote next year to finalize the legal framework.

This year’s push for legalization comes after the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly passed a decriminalization bill last year that makes simple possession a civil penalty, punishable by a fine of no more than $ 25 .

The support of Governor Northam was crucial

Northam, also a Democrat, took a new position in November and supported legalization. He said there were many reasons why he changed his mind, including unequal penalties for marijuana-related crimes among people of color.

In his annual address to lawmakers last month, he said legalization would ensure Virginia is a “fairer state that works better for everyone.”

“We did the research, and we can do it the right way, leading to social justice, public health and public safety,” Northam said at the time.

Cops, clergy and recovery industries opposed it

Law enforcement groups, religious interest groups and proponents of addiction prevention were among those who opposed the measure.

Regina Whitsett, executive director of Substance Abuse Free Environment, Inc., said legalizing marijuana will increase drug-related traffic accidents and marijuana use among adolescents. The group also worries that edible marijuana products could get into the hands of young children and lead to accidental poisoning.

“It’s really not a legalization of marijuana, it’s a commercialization of marijuana that they are trying to pass,” Whitsett said.

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Opponents express fears with little evidence

Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said law enforcement officials are concerned that legalization will accelerate the overall use of marijuana and lead to more traffic accidents.

“The problem of viewing this as a profitable industry for Virginia is negated by the cost of healthcare, impaired travel costs, and the fact that it affects young people,” Schrad said. “There are just many other problems and costs of legalizing marijuana.”

Research has not shown any increased health care costs associated with cannabis legalization. In fact, many studies have found that the costs associated with opioid use decreased when cannabis was legalized. Opioid addiction rates and overdose deaths have also declined after cannabis was legalized. Studies published by the federal government have also found no increased cannabis use by minors in legalized states.

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Both versions of the legislation contain safety provisions that address packaging, advertising and consumer education.

Legalization is expected to generate significant tax revenues. A recent study by the legislature’s research and oversight agency, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, found that legalizing and taxing commercial marijuana sales could generate anywhere from $ 154 million to $ 308 million by the fifth year of sales.

House majority leader Charniele Herring, who is the main patron of House law, said the legislation is a pressing matter for people of color who have been disproportionately punished for crimes related to marijuana.

The commission’s study found that Black Virginians constitute a disproportionately high percentage of those arrested and convicted of marijuana offenses. From 2010 to 2019, the average arrest rate of blacks for marijuana possession was 3.5 times higher than the arrest rate of whites, according to the study, which also found that blacks were also convicted at a much higher rate – 3.9 – times higher than white individuals.

“These communities hurt. It is now time to remedy the situation, ”said Herring.

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Beth Edmonds