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Marijuana Legalization Bill Killed by Virginia Lawmakers

The bills were struck down a week after the governor called for the decriminalization of marijuana in the state.

Marijuana Legalization Bill Killed by Virginia Lawmakers
Per Bengtsson/ Shutterstock

Two Virginia bills that would have legalized marijuana in the state were killed by a legislative committee on Wednesday. The House of Delegates Courts of Justice Committee also shot down several measures that would have decriminalized cannabis by 5-3 votes, according to media reports.

Del. Steve Heretick, who introduced both a legalization and decriminalization bill, announced the defeat of the proposals in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

“It’s a sad day for Virginia. Today the House Courts of Justice Committee defeated both my marijuana legalization and decriminalization bills,” Heretick wrote. “This is just the beginning of the fight. I have heard from thousands of Virginians this week who have flooded my office with calls, emails, visits, and social media posts, sharing their personal stories. I have been truly touched by the outpouring of support. I decided to take a bold stand and while many politicians in Richmond quietly supported the bill, only a few had the courage to stand publicly with me. I will continue to fight for Virginians of all walks of life, from all political backgrounds, who believe as I do, that marijuana prohibition has been a failure.”

Legalization Bill Included Retail Sales

Had Heretick’s legalization bill succeeded, it would have legalized the recreational use and home cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older. The measure also would have established a regulatory framework for commercial marijuana cultivation and sales. The bill would have imposed a 15 percent tax on cannabis sales, with 67 percent of the revenue generated going into the state’s general fund. The remaining 33 percent had been earmarked for a public education “Retail Marijuana Education Support Fund.”

“Whether the politicians realize it or not, the time has come for adults to have the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not to consume marijuana in the privacy of their homes,” Heretick said when he introduced the bill only last week.

Del. Lee Carter, the sponsor of one of the second legalization bill, said that because of the lasting effect of drug convictions the “most dangerous thing about cannabis is getting caught with it.”

After the bills were introduced in the House of Delegates, Jesse Scaccia of the cannabis advocacy group Virginia NORML said that it was time for cannabis reform.

“There has really been a national and cultural brainwashing when it comes to marijuana, but the facts and the signs are really clear that it is so much safer than say alcohol for our communities,” said Scaccia. “The facts and the research are on our side, we are very lucky that there are 10 states ahead of us with adult regulated use so that’s essentially ten case studies.”

The death of the legalization and decriminalization bills comes only one week after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam called for the decriminalization of cannabis in his State of the State address on January 9.

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