RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — A local delegate’s push to legalize marijuana for recreational use was shot down, as well as several other major bills aimed at decriminalizing or legalizing the drug, before they even reached the full General Assembly this year.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports a Republican-led Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee killed two bills aimed at legalization — one sponsored by Portsmouth Delegate Steve Heretick (D) and another sponsored by Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas.
“It’s a sad day for Virginia. Today the House Courts of Justice Committee defeated both my marijuana legalization and decriminalization bills,” said Heretick in a press release Wednesday night. “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.
Heretick’s bill would have legalized use for adults over the age of 21, and set up a regulated system of cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities and retail marijuana stores, taxing marijuana sales at 15 percent.
67 percent of revenue collected would have been put into Virginia’s general fund, and 33 percent of revenues would have been deposited into a “Retail Marijuana Education Support Fund” to be used for public education.
“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,” Delegate Heretick said.
The bills for legalization were considered a longshot to get through the conservative General Assembly, but bills to decriminalize marijuana were seen as slightly more of a possibility.
However, the Times-Dispatch reported that multiple bills to decriminalize died in 5-3 votes. Virginia legislators have tried for years to decriminalize possession of small amounts, but the bills continue to die in committee. Heretick has also pushed for decriminalization since 2015.
Gov. Ralph Northam had supported decriminalization, even saying so in his recent State of the Commonwealth. Virginia has only allowed non-psychoactive cannabidiol oils, commonly known as CBD, to be dispensed at just five dispensaries.
Virginia’s neighbor to the south, North Carolina, decriminalized marijuana back in 1977. It’s one of 13 states that have decriminalized weed. Marijuana has been legalized in 10 states and the District of Columbia.