RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Newly empowered Republican lawmakers in Virginia who opposed legalizing easy possession of marijuana say they don’t wish to scrap the regulation, however they do wish to make vital modifications.
These modifications might embrace shifting 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 a minimum of eight payments that decision for amendments to the 2021 regulation 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’ve got to have a regulatory construction in place for retail gross sales that doesn’t encourage the black market,” mentioned Garren Shipley, a spokesperson for Home Speaker Todd Gilbert.
The regulation was handed alongside strict social gathering traces, with Democrats supporting legalization and Republicans voting in opposition to it. On the time, Democrats managed each the Home and Senate. Republicans took management of the Home within the November election, profitable a 52-48 majority over Democrats. Democrats nonetheless maintain a slight 21-19 majority within the Senate.
A reenactment clause within the regulation requires the legislature to vote once more this yr on a posh regulatory construction for retail gross sales, leaving open the likelihood Republicans might push by modifications in how the licensing course of will work, who will probably be given a bonus when making use of for licenses and the way tax income from marijuana gross sales will probably be spent by the state.
Democrats who supported legalization and advocates for individuals convicted of marijuana crimes are involved the modifications proposed by Republicans will strip the regulation of “social fairness” provisions designed to assist individuals who have been harm by outdated marijuana legal guidelines.
“Lots of people have been overly penalized and overly policed and overly suffered due to our misguided insurance policies of the previous, and it’s time they cease struggling, and in reality have an opportunity to make up some misplaced floor in ways in which their lives have been impacted,” mentioned 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 vital modifications, together with redirecting the 30% of tax revenues from marijuana gross sales at the moment earmarked for a Hashish Fairness Reinvestment Fund to a fund that will be used to rebuild crumbling college buildings across the state.
“We try to make sure that the cash goes to the place it’s most wanted,” Webert mentioned. “To be in a superb college setting, to supply a superb, secure college constructing and an environment by which a toddler can study will probably be an ideal asset for that individual’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 a substitute of the reinvestment fund, which was included within the 2021 regulation as a solution to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by stringent drug legal guidelines, notably communities of coloration. Each proposals are drawing criticism from social justice advocates.
“I’m actually struck by this try and defund fairness and reinvestment when we’ve got dedicated to legalizing in a solution to convey some type of profit to individuals impacted by the struggle on medication,” mentioned Chelsea Higgs Clever, government director of Marijuana Justice.
Webert’s invoice additionally would remove a provision that requires giving particular consideration to social fairness license candidates, together with individuals who have been convicted of marijuana crimes or members of their rapid households. It leaves in 2021 provisions that will give desire to individuals who reside in economically distressed areas and for individuals who attended a traditionally black school or college in Virginia.
“I consider that in case you commit a criminal offense and serve your time, you must have a seat on the desk, nevertheless it shouldn’t put you on the entrance of the road,” Webert mentioned.
Webert’s invoice would additionally slash the general tax price on marijuana gross sales from 21% to 10%, a step he mentioned he believes is critical to encourage individuals to purchase from the authorized market as a substitute of the black market.
A number of Republican-sponsored payments suggest shifting up the date for retail gross sales to start in 2023 as a substitute of 2024 by promoting by present medical marijuana operators. Different 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 mentioned that whereas he won’t attempt to repeal private possession, he does have critical considerations about items of the invoice that set up the business market.
“It consists of compelled unionization, is regarding to regulation enforcement, and establishes an unstable market that features anti-competitive enterprise provisions that set Virginia as much as fail,” mentioned Youngkin spokesperson Macaulay Porter. “He’s able to work in good religion to handle these and different points in live performance with the Common Meeting.”
JM Pedini, government director of the Virginia chapter of the Nationwide Group for the Reform of Marijuana Legal guidelines, mentioned many advocates consider the legislature should take motion this yr to maneuver up the date for retail gross sales.
“Persevering with to cede management of the hashish market to untaxed illicit operators shouldn’t be tenable,” Pedini mentioned.