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article imageVirginia lawmakers introduce bills to legalize cannabis use

By Karen Graham     Jan 10, 2019 in Politics
Richmond - Marijuana would be legalized in Virginia under legislation that was introduced on January 8. The two new bills are among more than 10 cannabis-related proposals that lawmakers in the Commonwealth will be considering this year.
Of the thousands of pieces of legislation introduced by lawmakers at the beginning of the 2019 Virginia General Assembly session, two bills are aimed at legalizing and regulating recreational use of marijuana across the Commonwealth.
HB2371 was introduced by Democratic Delegate Steve Heretick from Hampton Roads, Virginia. Heretick has been a big proponent of legalizing marijuana, but this bill is the first time he has called for full adult-use legalization.
Under HB 2371, criminal penalties would be eliminated for possession of marijuana for persons who are 21 years of age or older. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services would be responsible for issuing licenses to businesses to grow and sell cannabis.
HB 2373; introduced by Prince William Democratic Delegate Lee Carter would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of marijuana by adults 21 years old and up and decriminalize possession for persons under 21 years of age, similar to Heretick's bill that has a civil penalty of no more than $100 for possession of less than two and one-half ounces.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, is a strong supporter of legislation that would decriminalize cannabis. “[Decriminalization is] something that I ran on in 2017, and there were actually some folks on both sides of the aisle that were discussing it but it didn’t happen,” Northam said last year. “But we’ll continue to pursue that as we move forward.”
“Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement – enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children. African Americans are nearly three times as likely to get arrested for simple possession of marijuana and sentencing guidelines that include jail time can all too often begin a dangerous cycle of recidivism,” Northam wrote in a 2017 letter to the State Crime Commission.
While marijuana possession and use remains illegal at the federal level, the Heretick and Carter bills would set Virginia on the road to joining 35 other states who have legalized marijuana to varying degrees.
More about Virginia, General Assembly, Cannabis, legalization of marijuana, 35 other states
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