10 people are currently imprisoned solely on marijuana charges
Nearly a year after Virginia lawmakers voted to legalize possession of marijuana, they remain divided on what — if anything — to do about people currently imprisoned on marijuana charges.
The committee of House and Senate lawmakers tasked with making recommendations for the legislative session that begins Wednesday concluded its work this week with a proposal to begin recreational sales in 2023 — a year earlier than initially planned.
But like last year — when resentencing provisions were left out of the original bill — lawmakers said they ran out of time to reach an agreement on how to handle the issue, leaving the debate for the legislative session.
The Virginia Department of Corrections says 10 people are currently serving sentences in which the most serious offense was marijuana. In all of the cases, the people were convicted of transporting five or more pounds of marijuana into the state.
All 10 are expected to be released in the next six years, according to the department, which presented the data Monday to the assembly’s Cannabis Oversight Commission.
Another 560 people are serving sentences partially related to a marijuana offense but have also been found guilty of more serious offenses.
Democrats on the committee said they supported allowing the 560 people in the latter category to petition for a resentencing hearing to allow a judge to decide whether they were giving a longer sentence than they might have otherwise faced as a result of the marijuana charge.
But they disagreed on how to handle the 10 people serving time solely for marijuana convictions.
Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, called for legislation that would provide for their immediate release.
Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, said he planned to propose legislation that would also require those 10 people to petition for a resentencing hearing and for a judge to decide whether and how their sentences should be altered. Ebbin reasoned that it remains a felony to transport five or more pounds of marijuana into the state under the revised law.
Scott responded that, “I just visited a medical provider last week and there were thousands of pounds in there, so yeah I think those 10 people deserve a chance to come home.”
The three Republicans on the committee, meanwhile, have not taken a stance. Unlike last year, when Democrats began the process of legalizing the drug on a series of party-line votes, the GOP now occupies the Executive Mansion and holds a narrow majority in the House of Delegates.
And so far, Republicans have said little about how they plan to approach the issue beyond offering broad assurances that they won’t seek to repeal the legislation.
“I think whether or not you support marijuana or don’t’ support marijuana, the reality is we already have laws on the books,” said Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell. “So I think it’s only responsible Virginia fall under a very well regulated market.”
After the meeting Morefield said the House GOP caucus has not arrived at a consensus on how to deal with people in prison for marijuana-related convictions. Likewise, Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Hanover, said Senate Republicans are also still discussing the issue.
Legislation introduced by individual Republican lawmakers so far would gut social equity provisions championed by Democrats and give cities and counties more discretion to block marijuana sales at the local level.
Incoming Gov. Glenn Youngkin has made limited remarks on the subject, telling Virginia Business in an interview last month that “When it comes to commercialization, I think there is a lot of work to be done. I’m not against it, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Robert Zullo for questions: [email protected] Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.
- Mississippi House amends medical cannabis bill, returns to SenateThe House on Wednesday passed a Senate medical marijuana proposal, but only after changing the bill to lower the amount of cannabis a patient could get. The vote was 104-14 on the amended Senate Bill 2095.
- Cheech & Chef: Comedy legend fronts “stoner food” delivery service“With the pandemic, you want to go out,” Cheech Marin tells Profiles in Legalization, “but it’s tough to get into some places. So if you can order from them and have them deliver… Yay! Progress.”
- Florida’s growing medical cannabis program could lead to changesWith Florida’s medical marijuana program continuing to grow as more patients seek approval for marijuana cards, some state lawmakers in the 2022 session are pursuing changes to make it easier to access medical marijuana, raising concerns from some marijuana activists that physicians could be negatively impacted.
- Senate overwhelmingly passes Mississippi medical cannabisThe vote on Senate Bill 2095 was initially counted as 45-5, well beyond what would be considered a veto-proof majority, but subject to change as it was by use of morning roll call and senators could change their votes or check in through the end of the day.
- Ohio cannabis legalization group turns in additional signaturesThe Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 29,918 additional signatures in support of an initiated statute legalizing the adult use of marijuana to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office today.
- Senate vote on Mississippi medical cannabis bill expected Thursday. Here’s a look at the bill.After years of debate and hang-fire, a Mississippi medical marijuana program for people with chronic and debilitating illnesses inched forward Wednesday, with a Senate committee passing a bill along to the full chamber.
- Virginia lawmakers still at odds over resentencing for people in prison on cannabis chargesNearly a year after Virginia lawmakers voted to legalize possession of marijuana, they remain divided on what — if anything — to do about people currently imprisoned on marijuana charges.
- Opinion: We need Social Equity in all cannabis industries now“It’s time that we establish more robust social equity programs that allow all to thrive in this industry. It shouldn’t just be those who have institutional money or come from a position of privilege.”
- As clock ticks, headwinds build against Mississippi medical cannabisFor some time after the Supreme Court shot down a vote of the people to create a Mississippi medical marijuana, it appeared fait accompli that lawmakers would enact a program, per the “will of the voters.” That outcome is now in doubt.
- Oregon enforces new federal hemp rules for state growersHemp growers in the state will now need to abide by several new federal regulations that will be overseen by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. The changes come at a time of growing concerns over illegal marijuana operations in parts of southern Oregon.