A Republican Virginia lawmaker has filed a bill to create a regulated marijuana market in the Commonwealth. The bill, however, is drawing mixed reactions from advocates. Some are viewing it as a giveaway to large, multi-state operators at the expense of equity for people harmed by the war on drugs, but things may not be the way they seem.
What’s This New Legislation?
The new legislation filed by the lawmaker aims to establish a commercial marketplace in Virginia, building on the current Virginia law that allows for legal adult-use cannabis possession and personal cultivation.
During 2021, lawmakers did not include regulatory language as part of the Virginia legalization bill. The components of the bill were subject to reenactment by the future legislature, but lawmakers haven’t made modifications to the bill in the 2022 session, which saw Republicans back in control of the House of Delegates and the governor’s office.
This new piece of legislature, HB 1464, is aimed at amending the previously passed regulatory provisions. This would give legislators a different model to work on for the Virginia market.
Some are defending the measure to work on a new model for Virginia, while others are stating that the new measures will be unworkable, with concerns about social equity provisions.
The bill proposes to remove language that calls on regulators to develop standards for prioritizing social equity applicants. Instead, they would have to find ways to prioritize any applicant who intends to operate in a historically economically disadvantaged area rather than those who are from such an area.
The bill would also remove language that requires multi-license holders to submit “diversity, equity, and inclusion plans,” for example. And it would delete the section that lays out social equity license applicant criteria, such as ownership by people with prior cannabis convictions.
The biggest concern regarding this new bill is that it replaces policies that empower people in communities that have been harmed by the war on drugs, with profit-boosting benefits for corporations that locate their businesses within disadvantaged areas.
This essentially means that larger corporations are able to start businesses in disadvantaged areas and target poor people for profit. (Read more on state-by-state legislation and legalization here.)
Corporate Greed Or Simply The Next Step In The Right Direction?
While the initial outlook of this new bill seems to be rather malicious, without caring too much for the lives and well-being of disadvantaged communities, we suspect that this bill is going to be a step in the right direction. And frankly, it’s something that should’ve been introduced along with the legalization bill back in 2021.
While it would give corporations free access to target disadvantaged communities, it would also allow for small and medium-sized cannabis businesses to start opening up and doing business in their local communities.
Cannabis sales are expected to still receive a level of regulation with this new bill, but we’ll have to wait and see once the bill session starts later next month. Compromises are sure to be made, as patience is running thin to get the legal market up and running in Virginia.
One thing’s for certain: Legalization of recreational cannabis is overwhelmingly popular with both Republican and Democrat voters. Hopefully, the governor can take notice and begin to move proceedings in the right direction.
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