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Reform of Hashish in Virginia: No extra "child steps", say the legislators

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Raj Chander, December 12, 2019

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has emerged as one of the leading voices for cannabis reforms at the state level. On Wednesday, he gathered the heads of state of the state of Virginia in Richmond to discuss the next steps of the state to reform cannabis policy. (Andrew Harnik / AP, Flavijus / iStock)

RICHMOND, VA – Virginia has long been one of the most conservative cannabis states in the country after it passed a very limited medical marijuana law in 2018. However, with the acquisition of a new generation of heads of state, Virginia could take much-needed action to reform cannabis in 2020.

The first step in this direction took place on Wednesday at a full-day cannabis reform conference in Richmond.

At the Virginia Cannabis Summit, hosted by Attorney General Mark Herring, legislators from state officials in Illinois and Colorado, legal experts and law enforcement agencies, "heard an action plan for the much-needed reform of the cannabis laws in Virginia. "

Today we bring legislators, stakeholders and policy experts together to design a course for a smarter, fairer and fairer cannabis policy in VA. For me, that means decriminalizing now, breaking previous beliefs and moving to legal, regulated adult use. Http://t.co/aqWxQCVPIg

– Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) December 11, 2019

A call for brand equity

Members of the Virginia Caucus's new cannabis caucus, which was founded after Democrats took control of the House and Senate in last month's state legislature, questioned experts on justice in the cannabis industry, the rise of the CBD, and racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana legislation. In 2018, nearly 29,000 people were arrested for marijuana in Virginia – the highest number in 20 years and three times higher than in 1999.

According to the state police, many of these allegations were based on simple possession.

"I've seen so many young people being arrested for their possession of a small amount of marijuana in their future," said Herring. "These beliefs will stay with you throughout your life. They limit your future job opportunities, educational opportunities … even custody issues. "

"This is a matter of extreme seriousness for us," said Del. Steve Heretick. "Virginia wants to do it right."

Justice and race justice were important issues. African Americans account for 20% of the state's population, but according to the police, they account for almost half of all marijuana possessions.

Lessons from Illinois

Ashley Wright, head of the Illinois Attorney General's Legislature, Kwame Raoul, provided behind-the-scenes insights into the legalization efforts of Illinois. She said similar racial distinctions in Chicago made Illinois the 11th state in the country to legalize marijuana earlier this year.

"In 2010, two years before Chicago, more than 33,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession, the highest in the country," Wright said. "Most were for 10 grams or less."

"The war on drugs had a disproportionately negative effect on the color communities," she added. "And if you want to legalize marijuana, you have to talk:" How do you correct that? "

She described Illinois's approach to the social justice of cannabis as a three-legged stool: automatic designation for minor cannabis convictions, promotion of applicants for social justice in retail, and reinvestment of marijuana tax revenue in communities, most affected by the ban.

Hemp producers take risks

The delegates also heard from experts about hemp and CBD.

"Commercial hemp in Virginia is very new. I think it's our second or third harvest, "said Senator Dave Marsden. The farmers in his district were optimistic about the industry's potential, but expressed concern about the regulations. The law requires hemp crops containing more than 0.3% THC, known as "growing hot", to be destroyed.

"We've got an ear" from the Ag industry, Marsden said. "The risks of hemp cultivation in Virginia are enormous."

Another long way

Despite newfound optimism, Virginia still has a lot to do in terms of cannabis policy reform. In 2018, Governor Ralph Northam expanded the Commonwealth medical cannabis oil program. However, medicinal cannabis products with a THC concentration above 5% are still banned.

"Here in Virginia, there is a tendency for caution within the legislature," said Del. Lee Carter, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, who struggled with Bernie Sanders earlier this year. Carter and Heretick introduced legislation to legalize marijuana at the Virginia General Assembly in January.

Carter urged lawmakers to overcome this traditional slow-pace approach. "If we take care and take small steps," he said, "we will allow the continued damage to continue."

Gov. Northam has called for decriminalization, but no longer demands legalization. When asked about the political differences between the branches of government, Herring emphasized the importance of focusing on what could be controlled.

Northam's cannabis policy is "a matter of course to the governor," Herring said to Leafly. "What I'm trying to do is put Virginia on the right track … I hope that, as with other people who have an open mind, we can bring people along."

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Raj Chander is a digital marketing entrepreneur and freelance author dedicated to health, politics and cannabis. His work has been published in VICE, Entrepreneur, Healthline, DOPE Magazine and other publications. In his spare time Raj enjoys basketball, history and strength training. Follow him on Twitter: @raj_chander

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