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420 with CNW — Six Issues Virginia Legislators Face While Discussing Marijuana Legalization

Soon after the November 2020 elections, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans to propose cannabis legalization legislation  when the state’s General Assembly convenes in January. If passed, that legislation would make Virginia the only Southern state that allows adult-use marijuana. Lawmakers in the state have up to 24 months to come up with a cohesive regulatory structure to govern the cannabis industry. According to Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, the following are some of the key areas legislators will have to focus on.

Expunging past cannabis convictions. According to the 200-page report released by the state Joint Legislative Audit and Review Board, black Virginians are three and a half times more likely to be arrested for possession than a white Virginian. Expunging past cannabis convictions will go a long way in addressing this racial inequality as well as allowing individuals with these convictions to access employment and even housing opportunities.

Policing marijuana-related offenses after legalization. The authors of the report predict that legalizing cannabis wouldn’t increase the police force’s workload. However, the police may have a hard time enforcing driving while intoxicated laws as there is no way to accurately measure THC content in the blood, the report says. Lawmakers may have to propose new legislation to discourage cannabis consumption in vehicles as well as implementing drug recognition training for police officers.

Will big corporations or small businesses be the norm? Several lawmakers have stated that they would like to prevent big out-of-state companies from dominating Virginia’s cannabis industry. According to the report, avoiding a vertically integrated structure that allows a single business to hold cultivation, processing and retail licenses would result in a less-efficient marketplace with higher prices. However, slightly higher prices may prevent youths from buying cannabis as well as overconsumption from adults, aged 21 years and older.

What about business owners with past cannabis convictions? Surveys show that other states that have legalized cannabis have become dominated by white men, something Virginian lawmakers would like to prevent. They concur that while the state may be unable to pass legislation that earmark licenses or incentives for black applicants, it could use policies such as reduced license fees, providing start-up financing and mentoring to people with past cannabis convictions living in areas that were disproportionately policed for cannabis.

How high will cannabis be taxed, and what will the funds be used for? The authors of the report propose a sales tax of between 25 to 30%. The tax isn’t so high that the industry will struggle against the black market, and it could generate up to $300 million a year. Highly processed products such as edibles, which are easier to consume and generally more potent, should be taxed a little higher, the report states. Additionally, funds collected through taxes should be used on social equity programs to address the harms done by the decades-long war on drugs.

Growing cannabis at home has been allowed by some states as long as residents stay within the allowed parameters. Virginia could limit growing to between two to six plants per person with a maximum of 12 plants per household, with the report estimating that two plants could yield eight to sixteen ounces of cannabis yearly. Lawmakers should also consider prohibiting people from pooling their plant alliances as it often leads to sizable, unregulated cannabis grows.

States that open the door to regulated adult-use marijuana usually create opportunities for astute business minds to set up shop there. For example, when Michigan legalized recreational pot, the former CEO of a Canadian cannabis giant (Canopy Growth Corp.) set up Gage Cannabis Co., a company determined to be the dominant player in the Michigan marijuana market.

About CNW420

CNW420 spotlights the latest developments in the rapidly evolving cannabis industry through the release of two informative articles each business day. Our concise, informative content serves as a gateway for investors interested in the legalized cannabis sector and provides updates on how regulatory developments may impact financial markets. Articles are released each business day at 4:20 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. Eastern – our tribute to the time synonymous with cannabis culture. If marijuana and the burgeoning industry surrounding it are on your radar, CNW420 is for you! Check back daily to stay up-to-date on the latest milestones in the fast -changing world of cannabis.

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