Why Do Virginia Lawmakers Want to Make over 4 Ounces of Weed Illegal, Again?June 20, 2022
Lawmakers in the state of Virginia are segregated on the issue of when and how cannabis should be made legal in the state.
The lawmakers have issued a budget proposal that would see possession of cannabis that weighs over four ounces in public as a criminal misconduct offense. The lawmakers of Virginia state are looking to bring back a bill that makes such possession a crime once more, not up to a year following the vote for the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults by the legislature.
A year ago, the General Assembly of Virginia gave approval to a bill that made possession of up to an ounce of weed for personal use legal. According to the bill, possessing cannabis between an ounce and a pound in weight was said to be a civil infraction, carrying a twenty-five dollars fine at worst, but possessing an excess of one pound of pot is still a felony.
Now, under this new budget proposal issued by the state lawmakers during the weekend, the crime of possessing more than four ounces of cannabis in public will be a Class 3 misconduct criminal offense carrying a fine of as much as 500 dollars. And if caught a second time, the offense will be charged as a Class 2 misconduct, which, if convicted, could lead to a six months jail time sentence and as much as a thousand dollars fine.
According to a report obtained from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the two-party budget compromise is backed by the Democratic Senate Finance and Appropriations Chair Janet Howell, as well as the Republican House Appropriations Chair Barry Knight.
Following the release of the budget proposal on Sunday evening, Republican House Appropriations Chair Barry Knight stated they did not achieve all that they wanted to, but that he thinks they are quite content given what they got. He added that he does not believe it was either a case of the House prevailing over the Senate or the Senate prevailing over the House.
In the previous year, it was suggested by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission that Virginia should follow the footsteps of other states in making possession of higher amounts of marijuana misconduct, a change he claimed to be wanted but the police.
The statement from Barry Knight was that it is further in conjunction with the actions of other states, so they are not standing alone out there and that they know their law enforcement desires it.
A Few Lawmakers And Virginia Activists Are Against The Recriminalization
With the lawmakers making moves to pass the bill, marijuana activists and a few lawmakers, as well as the state Senator L. Louise Lucas, are against the alteration in the budget proposal. Senator Lucas stated via a tweet that he voted against the criminalization of cannabis before. He is working to end this recent effort to criminalize cannabis once more.
He went on to say that this is aimed at brown and black people who have always been overcharged with these crimes in the past and that the state does not need these laws to return them to the past.
The Executive director of the group Marijuana Justice Virginia, Chelsea Highs Wise, teamed up with other activist groups in an email sent on Sunday evening to Howell. She wrote in the email that lawmakers should stop looking for more ways to make Virginians criminals and that everyone should work on making right the wrongs from the destructive and failed prohibition.
Highs Wise also added that officials in Virginia must not let the budget proposal become a lawful workaround to enforce what the administration wants while excluding the will and the people’s voice. The legislative director for the ACLU of Virginia, Ashna Khanna, spoke up saying Virginia should also take the same approach as New Jersey as they passed their legitimate cannabis plan just this week, which not just fines and charges underaged people but sets up intervention services for them.
The Budget Deal Also Includes Provisions for Hemp
The budget compromises also include the wording to create new labeling of hemp products and requirements for laboratory testing. The proposal would prohibit the sale of products that contain THC to anybody younger than 21 years old. It, however, includes an exception for patients who require medical marijuana. The plan would as well ban products sold in specific child-like forms or are fake products.
Virginia Cannabis Business Association lobbyist Dylan Bishop praised the legislature and Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration for drafting a proposal in collaboration with the cannabis industry.
Dylan Bishop, in a statement, said it appropriately addresses the justified public concerns on safety over products that are labeled and packed irresponsibly without unjustly putting Virginia’s farmers, small businesses, and retailers at a disadvantage. But J.M. Pedini, the executive director of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) in Virginia, who supported legislation that would have seen delta-8 products regulated, claimed that the compromise on the budget will still not change the existing loopholes.
This budget proposal is not the first time Virginia lawmakers have made attempts to abolish the cannabis legalization law passed last year. During the regular session of this year’s General Assembly, Senator Adam Evin submitted a bill to regulate the sale of cannabis, which would lead to a new misconduct possession crime. And then, in April, the State Senate declined yet another proposal, this one from Youngkin, which was to criminalize possession of more than two ounces of weeds under the hemp industry bill.
A decision might be made after the General Assembly meets in a special session to contemplate the budget proposal, as well as the provision for re-criminalization of possession of over four ounces of weed.
Although the bill to recriminalize the possession of cannabis of more than four ounces has support from both the Democrats and the Republicans, there are still individuals in the legislative, as well as cannabis activists, who see the bill as a step backward and in the wrong direction.