The drugs on marijuana | Richmond Free Press

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Potheads, rejoice.

Smoking a joint will be legal in Virginia as of Thursday, July 1.

That’s as long as you’re 21 or older and smoke marijuana in your home or other private place.

The new law will also allow adults to grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes, although advocates note that there will be no legal way to purchase the seeds needed to produce the plants.

And besides, there will be no legal way to buy marijuana – other than having a prescription from a doctor and being registered to buy it at one of the five licensed dispensaries in the world. ‘State.

Legitimate retail outlets serving the public are at least two and a half years away from opening, and it will still be illegal to transport marijuana around the state for sale after Thursday.

“You can own it, but there will be no legal way to buy the product, seeds or cuttings,” said State Senator Ryan T. McDougle, a Republican from Hanover who supports the use. personal but opposed the new law because of this paradox.

Like Senator McDougle, many people are realizing that Virginia is ushering in a radical change in its marijuana laws that will only go so far.

“We still have a lot of work to do to get it right,” said Henrico Delegate Lamont Bagby, chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, which has strongly supported the legalization of small amounts of marijuana.

With the support of VLBC, Virginia has already become the first southern state to decriminalize marijuana. Now, the Commonwealth will go down in history as the first southern state to legalize individual possession of drugs up to an ounce in public and maintain a civil fine for those possessing up to a pound.

Virginia will join 17 other states that have legalized personal marijuana, even though the federal government still lists it as a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin and cocaine.

In addition to allowing marijuana for personal use, the new law will require that convictions for possession and other offenses involving marijuana be sealed, with the door open to expunging those criminal records.

Still, Alexandria State Senator Adam Ebbin, one of the main sponsors of legalization, said people need to understand that Virginia has only made so many changes. For example, smoking or possessing weed on school property will still be illegal. The same will apply to smoking weed on sidewalks or other public places.

“People should always be careful – Virginia is not an official open marijuana market,” he said.

This is not unusual, said Jenna Michelle Pedini, executive director of operations in Virginia for NORML, the National Organization for Marijuana Law Reform, which has spent 50 years building public support for the legalization of marijuana. marijuana.

Under the new law, people can legally share marijuana, but cannot sell it or the seeds.

“The main objective of legalization is to reduce criminalization,” said Ms. Pedini.

She said most states that have legalized marijuana started by allowing individual use and then creating the legal market, but she is arguing for an acceleration of legal sales.

It may not happen until January 1, 2024, the scheduled start date, sanctioned by the state.

growth and wholesale and retail operations. As noted by Senator Ebbin and Alexandrian delegate Charniele Herring, another leader in promoting legalization, much of the legal structure and apparatus for cultivation, marketing and distribution remains incomplete. and are subject to a second approval vote at the 2022 General Assembly session.

Virginia is still trying to put together the new Cannabis Control Agency that will be responsible for licensing and regulating cultivation, manufacturing and distribution.

As a result, the goal of ensuring that entrepreneurs in black and brown communities most affected by drug laws become owners and operators of marijuana-related businesses remains but one hope.

The same is true of the goal of having the taxes generated by legal sales of marijuana in a fund to invest in these communities to help offset the damage caused by the arrests.

At the moment, there are no taxes to be collected.

And to the dismay of groups like RISE for Youth, minors will still be treated like offenders if caught with marijuana. They face civil fines of $ 25, assignment to drug treatment programs, and potential loss of their driving privileges if caught with drugs. And adults who provide marijuana to minors could face criminal charges.

NORML was among the first to note that the law the General Assembly passed this year allows people to own marijuana seeds but does not allow any legal means to purchase them.

Ms. Pedini notes that many websites offer marijuana seeds for sale. She said Virginians cannot buy them legally despite claims they are circumventing state laws by selling the seeds as adult novelty items.

Solving this problem, however, “will be a top priority in the next session,” she said.

To help people understand the dos and don’ts of the new law, Virginia NORML offers answers to frequently asked questions on her website, www.vanorml.org.

The state also offers online advice and guidance for those with questions about cannabis.virginia.gov.

What the new law will do is end the war on black Virginians, who the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission said were nearly four times more likely to be arrested and convicted for crimes. marijuana-related offenses than white offenders, despite largely equal marijuana use between the two groups. .

Even after decriminalization, blacks were more likely to be hit with subpoenas and fines than their white counterparts.

Legalization means “the end of the disparate enforcement, which is going to make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of Virginians,” said Alena Yarmosky, spokesperson for Governor Ralph S. Northam.

Even though it is illegal, marijuana is widely available.

According to New Frontier Data’s U.S. Cannabis Report, Virginia had the fourth largest illicit market last year, accounting for about $ 1.8 billion, or 3% of the $ 60 billion in total illicit sales estimated at l nationwide.

Ms. Pedini advocates for the opening of marijuana dispensaries as adult retail operations. But advocates of black inclusion, such as the Cannabis Equity Coalition of Virginia, see this as virtually ensuring that the five state-licensed dispensaries will gain a huge advantage, making it harder for new retailers to succeed.

Dispensaries are vertically integrated, that is, they grow, manufacture and distribute marijuana. And giving them approval for retail sales would be a travesty of the fairness agenda that is supposed to be part of the legalization, according to the coalition.


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