RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Several organizations in Virginia including the Virginia NAACP and the ACLU of Virginia say they will not support the new marijuana legalization bill.
Lawmakers are expected to vote Saturday to legalize marijuana in Virginia by 2024, however several, local organizations are voicing their opposition to the bill.
In a statement issued Saturday afternoon, Virginia State Conference NAACP President Robert N. Barnette, Jr. stated that the proposal by the General Assembly add new crimes and would lead to a spike in police encounters with Black Virginians.
“The Virginia NAACP does not support so-called marijuana decriminalization that includes systemically racist probable cause provisions,” said Barnette. “We will not stand by while Jim Crow’s sister Jane tries to creep her way into Virginia law.”
Similarly, ACLU of Virginia agreed stating that the bill will create new crimes that include permitting searches for having marijuana in a vehicle and possession under the age of 21.
Officials believe the bill also adds new pretexts like “transportation” and offering or consuming marijuana in a public place, all of which, they say, will be enforced disproportionately against Black Virginians.
“This bill does not advance the cause of equal justice or racial justice in Virginia,” officials from the ACLU of Virginia stated in a release Saturday. “It is the product of a closed-door legislative process that has prioritized the interests of recreational marijuana smokers over people and communities of color. The bill is a failure and we urge lawmakers to vote against it.”
Progressive groups such as Justice Forward Virginia, Marijuana Justice, and RISE for Youth also supported the ACLU of Virginia’s opposition towards the bill.
The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, both under Democratic control, each passed legislation on Feb. 5 to legalize use and possession for those 21 years and older, with legal sales slated to begin Jan. 1, 2024.
While the bills had similarities, including an automatic expungement process for misdemeanor convictions and establishing the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority by July to oversee the legal industry, legislators were expecting that a conference committee negotiation would be needed to work out the final details.