As Virginia’s new legislative session begins, Republicans – I was encouraged by the restoration of the Governor’s Palace and the House of Delegates – Targets the cannabis reforms approved by the General Assembly last year.
State Republican lawmakers have introduced several advance actions that would overturn provisions from last year legislation Bill, focusing on social justice measures aimed at addressing the negative effects of the cannabis ban on communities of color.
Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (Republic of James City) proposed legislation to remove language from last year’s bill that directs 30% of tax revenue from incoming retail cannabis sales into a fund created to reinvest in communities disproportionately targeted by harsh drug laws. .
Norment bill It will return funds from the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund to the Commonwealth General Fund, effectively halting funding for the initiative and rendering it useless. (In July, the Governor of Northham Eye of Janice Underwood, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, to chair the Reinvestment Fund.)
The push to repeal the social justice provisions of the legalization bill last year raised alarm among advocates, who, a few months ago, were still euphoric in passing the landmark measure.
“It feels like a punch to the gut to see how quickly all of this can be taken down,” said Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of Marijuana Justice, a grassroots advocacy organization that has played a key role in gaining legalization in the Commonwealth.
On Sunday night, Higgs Wise joined other advocates for a virtual “preparatory gathering” to discuss strategies to continue pressing for reform during the 2022 legislative session.
“We’re very much on the defensive right now,” Higgs Wise said. “I’m really looking forward to making sure we can protect a lot of the work that resulted from [legalization] last year’s bill.
Last year’s cannabis laws aren’t the only ones in the GOP’s crosshairs. else Invoice in advance of Del Ronnie Campbell R-Rockbrige is seeking to repeal a 2020 law that prevents Virginia police from using the scent of cannabis as the only excuse to conduct searches without a warrant. Advocates of criminal justice reform have long argued that police use the smell of cannabis as an excuse to do so. racist bias And Sometimes fatal traffic stops.
Andre Hicks, president of the Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said rolling back protections against cannabis searches could lead to more arrests, prosecutions, and jail time for Virginians.
“It seems like a small thing, it sounds kind of technical, but it’s something that affects a huge number of people,” Hicks said. “Anyone can be stopped for something very simple, and then if you’re a person of color, or if you’re suspicious of the police for whatever reason, you can go racing there.”
Some Republicans are also looking to slow down Virginia A roll when it comes to launching a regulated market for recreational cannabis. The Commonwealth legalized simple possession and home farming in July, but recreational sales didn’t begin until 2024 and lawmakers would need to vote again this year on a retail market license for cannabis.
Made by Del. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) Show to amend a legalization law last year to allow recreational sales “only in localities that have agreed to operate retail marijuana stores through a referendum.” As in the 2021 bill, dispensaries will be allowed everywhere by default – except for areas that vote to opt out of recreational sales by referendum. Ware’s bill would turn this exception on its head.
Efforts to roll back parts of legalization are likely to have the support of Republican Governor-elect Glenn Yongkin, who said in a recent interview that “there is a lot of work to be done” on retail cannabis laws and They expressed concerns about social justice measures.
However, Justice Marijuana’s Higgs Wise said she is not deterred by GOP efforts and will continue to pressure lawmakers to make social equality Criminal justice reform is an essential part of legalization.
“It’s heartbreaking, but it’s not unusual for history to see these kinds of regression when we’ve made so much progress in the past few years,” she said.