Virginia Legalized Cannabis With a Twist

As Virginia decriminalized the adult-use of cannabis not too long ago, it is not surprising that Senate Bill 1406 has just recently passed. This legislature will legalize cannabis usage in 2024 within the state of Virginia. However, it has some interesting features.

One of which is aimed to help Black Virginians, who have been massively arrested for cannabis offenses, get licenses in order to operate their own cannabis-related businesses. This is an amazing policy, but it seems kind of performative since white, southern Virginians can also easily access this feature as well.

This bill will also allow cultivation everywhere. Localities could easily disallow a cannabis-related retailer from going into their town, but they cannot prevent a licensed farmer. A downside to the bill is that households can only cultivate two mature plants and two immature plants. Moreover, Virginia has put a cap on cannabis-related retailers at 400, which is extremely high, in my opinion. It is kind of amusing to me how socialized Virginia’s alcohol is in comparison to this.

Another aspect of the bill is that it will create a public advisory committee. I feel like this is great since there is a lack of research on how cannabis affects your health. As I know a large percentage of Virginians use cannabis, this will be beneficial for them and possibly their families to know the long-term health impacts. In addition, I am also hoping further research with cannabis will be conducted to see how it actually and fully works.

Matthew Brodeur Unsplash

Within a capitalist mindset, this bill sounds amazing. It will create jobs, Virginia will create a cannabis-tax of 21 percent and localities can tax up to 3 percent. However, it still has terrible legislation written in. Currently, in Virginia, if you possess more than an ounce of cannabis or cannabis products, you will face a $25 fine.

That does not seem like a lot to many of us, but to others, it could be detrimental, yet this policy will remain in place. In addition, if you have more than five pounds, you could be facing ten years in prison. Which again, I believe this is ridiculous because of the mass incarceration Black Virginians have already gone through with anti-cannabis laws. 

With all of these things considered, I feel like this bill is more concerned with the financial aspect of things. We are in the middle of the pandemic, so it is no surprise that our government is trying to generate new ways of making money. However, I do not like how they pass this off as a “social equity” bill when there are still fines and punishments for possession.

It seems backward and almost as if they are trying to regulate cannabis sales strictly through retailers, which scares me. I believe that if Virginia is going to show large favoritism towards corporations, per usual, they could have at least made it fully legal. These laws will only further disadvantage Black Virginians and benefit businesses until we stop penalizing people over cannabis usage.