Legislation that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Virginia jumped another hurdle Friday when lawmakers advanced the bill through the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.
Senate Bill 1406, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, would legalize the recreational sale and use of marijuana for adults age 21 or older in the commonwealth. It narrowly advanced through the committee on an 8-7 vote with support from every Democrat and opposition from every Republican.
The legislation would take effect Jan. 1 2024, providing time for the state to issue licenses for the cultivation, transportation and sale of marijuana. It also would provide time for the Cannabis Control Authority, which would be established with this bill, to set regulations for the recreational marijuana marketplace.
An amendment pushed the effective date to 2024 unless the General Assembly chooses to expedite the process. The bill was written originally to take effect in 2023.
Another amendment was added to the legislation that would require localities to formally opt out if they do not want marijuana sold in their jurisdiction; the original language would have required localities to formally opt in if they wanted to allow the sale of marijuana in their jurisdiction. The change was meant to make marijuana sale the standard across the state unless a locality takes action to block it.
The bill imposes a 21% tax on marijuana and marijuana products, and it allows localities to impose an additional tax up to 3% on marijuana and marijuana products.
Forty percent of the tax revenue would go to pre-kindergarten programs for at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds, and 30% would go to the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. The fund, which would be established by the bill, would provide money, scholarships and workforce training to communities disproportionately targeted by drug enforcement.
Another 25% of the tax revenue would go toward disorder prevention and treatment programs, and the final 5% would go toward other public health programs.
Similar legislation is working its way through the Virginia House. In both chambers, legalization of marijuana has received substantial support from Democrats and opposition from Republicans. Democrats have a majority in both chambers of the Legislature, and Gov. Ralph Northam intends to sign a marijuana legalization bill if it hits his desk.
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