Equity obstacles in Virginia push to legalize marijuana

RICHMOND, Va. — Could legalizing marijuana in Virginia help address social disparities and inequities? That’s one of the topics the state’s legislative watchdog agency explores in a new report examining how the commonwealth could legalize marijuana.

The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission report was published shortly before Gov. Ralph Northam announced he will support legislation to legalize marijuana in the Old Dominion.

Virginia decriminalized marijuana possession earlier this year and reduced possession penalties to a $25 civil penalty and no jail time for amounts up to an ounce. In the past, possessing up to half an ounce could lead to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

Northam said legislation should address five principles including public health and social, racial and economic equity.

The report addresses the establishment of a commercial marijuana industry that protects minors, prosecutes illegal sellers and maintains the state’s medical marijuana program. JLARC director Hal Greer said the study also examines ways legalization could benefit individuals and communities disproportionately impacted by past enforcement of marijuana laws.

“As a first step in that effort, we analyzed data on marijuana arrests across the state in the last decade,” Greer said. “The data revealed a deeply troubling finding that Black individuals are being arrested for marijuana offenses at a much higher rate than others.” [Read More @ The Washington Post]

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