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Marijuana is now legal in Virginia. Advocates are already pushing for changes to the law.

As of today, marijuana is legal for adults 21 and older to possess, consume and grow in Virginia. But unless a doctor has signed off on a prescription, there’s no legal way to buy it.

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As of today, marijuana is legal for adults 21 and older to possess, consume and grow in Virginia. But unless a doctor has signed off on a prescription, there’s no legal way to buy it.

Lawmakers have set a 2024 target to begin retail sales to recreational users, a runway the legislation’s authors say is necessary to establish the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, which will regulate the new market.

But some legalization advocates are hoping the General Assembly will agree to speed up that time frame.

“Our priority in the 2022 legislative session is to expedite retail access for adult consumers, both through already operational medical dispensaries and by moving up the date VCCA can begin issuing new licenses,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, the state chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws.

What Virginia’s marijuana legalization bill actually says

The medical dispensaries had lobbied to be allowed to begin selling to recreational customers beginning this year, but lawmakers resisted, worrying it would give the companies an unfair head start in a market where they hope to encourage minority-owned and small businesses.

Other advocates say the General Assembly’s immediate focus should be on the criminal justice side of the law. Democratic lawmakers who championed the legislation framed it primarily as a matter of racial justice in light of statistics showing Black people were three times more likely to be charged with possession than White people despite surveys showing the two groups use the drug at roughly the same rate.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, who founded Marijuana Justice, which led a coalition of criminal justice reform groups that worked on the law, applauded the decision to speed legalization. But she said getting the retail market off the ground is secondary to other work the General Assembly has left undone.

Among other things, she pointed to lawmakers’ decision not to include a resentencing provision for people currently incarcerated on marijuana charges, a category that likely includes hundreds of people. While lawmakers passed expungement provisions for past charges, they said they ran out of time to include language addressing resentencing.

“Pushing up commercial sales purely for access to weed is not the priority when this always has been and has to be a racial justice issue,” Higgs Wise said. “The July 1 law is rooted in eliminating racist enforcement of simple possession, not to expand access. Because it’s always been accessible, but only certain people have been criminalized for it.”

She said lawmakers should also prioritize eliminating criminal penalties for youth caught with the drug as well as open container laws that make it illegal to have the drug in the passenger area of a vehicle even if it’s not being used — two laws she predicted would continue to be disproportionately enforced against Black Virginians.

Marijuana will be legal in Virginia on July 1. Here’s what is and isn’t permitted under the new law.

She also called for the repeal of language included in the new law that bars public consumption, something she said would effectively prevent legal use by the homeless and residents of public housing and private complexes that include language in leases prohibiting the use of marijuana.

“We’ve seen places like D.C. and New York when this happens — those are exactly the people feeling the brunt of the penalties. They’re just too accessible to law enforcement.”

Attorney General Mark Herring, one of the earlier and more vocal proponents of legalization in Virginia, said all significant legislation requires compromise and refinement. During a tour Tuesday of gLeaf, the medical dispensary in Richmond, he withheld judgment on the approach the General Assembly has taken and the changes they will weigh when they convene next year.

“My goal is going to be identifying any areas moving forward that might need to be adjusted because it conflicts with other areas of the law or it may not be effective,” he said.

Asked if he had any legal advice for state residents trying to navigate the intricacies of the new law, he referred interested parties to an FAQ set up by the executive branch.

“I think the state has a good website,” he said. “Make sure you check that so you’re in full compliance with any rules.”

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Suspect Sought in West Clay Street Burglary

At approximately 4:57 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, the man in the photos climbed a wall in the rear of a house, located in the 00 block of West Clay Street, broke into the residence and stole a computer and credit cards.

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Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the individual in the attached photos who is a suspect in a residential burglary that occurred in the Jackson Ward neighborhood last month.

At approximately 4:57 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, the man in the photos climbed a wall in the rear of a house, located in the 00 block of West Clay Street, broke into the residence and stole a computer and credit cards. A photo of his distinctive pink and black sneakers is also attached.

 

Anyone with information about the identity of this person is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective J. Land at (804) 646-3103 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Virginia attorney general announces plan to hire state’s first cannabis lawyer

“I’m hiring a dedicated attorney to help guide the commonwealth’s efforts because I am committed to getting this right, and to making sure that we keep Virginia at the forefront of national efforts to craft a more just, fair and sensible system for dealing with cannabis,” Herring said in a statement.

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Attorney General Mark Herring says he plans to hire a lawyer dedicated to marijuana law now that the state has legalized the drug.

The new addition to his staff would serve as a subject-matter expert as the state’s new Cannabis Control Authority, which Gov. Ralph Northam appointed Monday, begins work developing regulations that will govern the legal marijuana market expected to open in 2024.

“I’m hiring a dedicated attorney to help guide the commonwealth’s efforts because I am committed to getting this right, and to making sure that we keep Virginia at the forefront of national efforts to craft a more just, fair and sensible system for dealing with cannabis,” Herring said in a statement.

The announcement comes as Herring, a Democrat who was among the party’s earliest and loudest supporters of marijuana legalization, seeks reelection to his third term in office. He faces Republican Del. Jason Miyares, who voted against legislation that legalized marijuana possession.

Herring’s office said the new hire will provide advice on the new law to state agencies that deal with everything from taxation to healthcare.

Advocates, who have occasionally voiced frustration with the state’s Board of Pharmacy as it developed rules for the state’s medical marijuana program, said they hoped the additional legal expertise will make things smoother for the recreational marijuana market.

“It’s critical that the commonwealth have counsel available to state agencies who is well-versed in both state and federal cannabis policies,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, the state chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws.

Herring’s office says they’re looking for a lawyer with experience in business law, state and federal litigation, and “a strong knowledge of state and federal regulation of controlled substances.”

Under the legalization bill lawmakers passed earlier this year, employers can still refuse to hire or fire employees who use marijuana. A spokeswoman said the Office of the Attorney General does not conduct drug testing as a condition of employment.

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Robert Zullo for questions: [email protected] Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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James River Park Trail Loop named one of America’s best running trails by Men’s Journal

Richmond’s trails were selected thanks to their top-notch views, rolling hills mixed in with a few steep climbs, creek and river crossings, and multiple access points and trailheads on either side of the river.

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The national health and fitness publication Men’s Journal recently published a list of the 15 best running trails in America, and the trails in Richmond’s James River Park System, including the North Bank and Buttermilk trails, were selected for the rankings, at number 11 overall.

Richmond’s trails were selected thanks to their top-notch views, rolling hills mixed in with a few steep climbs, creek and river crossings, and multiple access points and trailheads on either side of the river.

You can view the full list here.

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