PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A Hampton native was recently appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam to one of the cannabis oversight boards.
Small amounts of cannabis are now legal in the commonwealth, making Virginia the first state in the South to make the move to legalize recreational use.
As of July 1, Virginians can possess up to an ounce of weed. However, residents can’t purchase it. Those 21 and older can grow up to four plants in their home, with personal information on the tag, but seeds are not for sale.
Lawmakers created three boards to manage the industry: the Cannabis Control Authority, Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board and the Cannabis Public Health Advisory.
Hampton native Vickie Williams-Cullins is now a part of the cannabis reinvestment board, which is made up of 20 people.
“I grew up in a marginalized community, LaSalle Avenue and Shell Road. We have a lot of challenges,” she said.
Williams-Cullins runs OPN-Door Communications LLC and works with the Portsmouth court system.
Appointed by the governor, Williams- Cullins says she will use her own personal experiences to make changes now that cannabis is legal in the state.
“I’ve got classmates, college classmates, family members that were involved, that are carrying these felonies. To be in a position to help shape the legislation and formulate this space, it’s an honor,” she said.
It’s an honor she’s been working toward for over a decade.
“All of us have been doing the grunt work, from the mud. We’re out here helping people to get their rights restored. Helping people as they navigate this reentry space,” she said.
Thirty percent of the money earned from the cannabis industry will be used to help neglected communities.
“Specifically, our Black and brown communities who have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. I’m hopeful money that is generated from the legal sale of cannabis will be poured into communities for cities that I love like Portsmouth, Hampton and Norfolk, Virginia,” she said.
Sheba Williams is the executive director of Nolef Turns Inc. The organization helps people impacted by felony convictions.
She was also appointed by the governor to the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board. She wants to focus on families directly impacted.
“Making sure that people are center, and that people are taken care of in this moment in time. While there are a lot of people celebrating and there are also a lot of people who are hurting. There are still people incarcerated,” Williams said.
The Cannabis Public Health and Safety Board will be charged with regulating the adult-use industry when it gets up and running.
“We don’t actually have a licensing program established in the State of Virginia. I’m excited at the fact that we will get to build it and be part of finishing the job,” explained Ngiste Abebe, appointed to the Cannabis Public Health Advisory.
If you want to learn more about cannabis in the state, check out the website designed to help answer your questions.