Virginia Speaker of the House Calls for Marijuana to be Legalized Quicker
Virginia may have legal marijuana sooner than later, if the state’s speaker of the House of Representatives has her way.
According to a new report by the Assocoated Press, Virginia’s House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn on Friday said she supports moving up the date for legalizing adult recreational use of marijuana in Virginia to this summer, a key change pushed by advocates who have sharply criticized legislation approved by lawmakers last month that would delay legalization until 2024. “The time is now for us to act,” she said.
Filler-Corn noted that she will also push for other amendments, including a provision that calls for people who are currently incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses to have an opportunity for resentencing. In addition, Filler-Corn is also calling for an amendment that would automatically seal marijuana-related criminal records for nonviolent offenses on July 1. “She also wants the legislation amended to legalize the private cultivation of “a limited number” of marijuana plants for personal use”, states the AP.
“Legalization alone is not enough”, she said in a Tweet. “We must also address the historic targeting of black and brown individuals over non-violent marijuana related offenses.”
Last month, lawmakers approved a bill to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, but not until 2024, when retail sales of the drug would begin and regulations would go into effect to control the marijuana marketplace in Virginia.
With that vote, “Virginia became the first Southern state to vote to legalize marijuana, joining 15 other states and the District of Columbia.” This vote came after lawmakers last year decriminalized marijuana, making simple possession a civil penalty that can be punished by a fine of no more than $25.
According to the AP, the legislation to legalize simple possession beginning Jan. 1, 2024, has been on Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s desk for a month now. He has a deadline of Wednesday to send amendments to the House and Senate for their consideration. Northam has not said publicly what amendments he plans to make, but suggested in an interview with VPM News on Wednesday that he, too, wanted a faster timeline on legalization.
“I personally don’t think we should be arresting or penalizing somebody for something we’re getting ready to legalize,” Northam said.
Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, declined to comment directly on Filler-Corn’s announcement.
The Senate had sought in its original bill to legalize simple possession on July 1 to immediately end punishments for people with small amounts of marijuana. But some House Democrats had pushed for a legalization date in 2024, arguing that legalization without a legal market for marijuana could promote the growth of the black market. Democratic Sen. Jennifer McClellan said support in the Senate for the July 1 date has not changed.
“I’m glad to see the House appears to be coming around to our position on the July 1 date. That gives me even more confidence that that’s what’s going to happen,” said McClellan, who is running for governor.
The 2024 date had also drawn sharp criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Marijuana Justice and other racial justice advocacy groups.