Can communities opt out of legal marijuana? – Smithfield Time
Yes and no, said the county attorney
Cities, counties and towns in Virginia that wish to prevent the opening of retail marijuana stores within their borders will have a six-month window next year to hold a referendum on the issue.
Consistent with changes to state law earlier this year, it will become legal in Virginia on July 1 for adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in non-public places and grow it. up to four marijuana plants in their house. But retail sales of marijuana products won’t begin until 2024, giving the state time to put in place the regulatory agencies it plans to put in charge of overseeing the Virginia cannabis market.
According to the legislation, the language of the referendum must be “will the operation of retail marijuana stores be prohibited in ____” (name of county, town or town). If voters vote no, retail marijuana stores will be allowed to open 60 days after the referendum results are certified, or January 1, 2024, whichever is later. If voters vote yes, retail marijuana stores will be banned in the specified location effective January 1 of the year immediately following the referendum.
Said referendum must take place on or after July 1, 2022 and certified by December 31, 2022. If a locality that votes to ban the retail sale of marijuana wishes to reconsider its authorization, a new referendum can be held no earlier than four years after the previous one. a. If the referendum votes are in favor of allowing retail marijuana sales, the issue is settled and a new referendum cannot be called.
Localities that choose to allow the retail sale of marijuana are permitted to impose a local marijuana tax rate of 3% on these purchases. Virginia plans to impose an additional 21% state tax on most marijuana purchases.
But beyond the retail referendum, few localities can do to prevent commercial marijuana growers and manufacturers of marijuana products and accessories from establishing themselves within their borders. by 2024, according to Isle of Wight County Attorney Bobby Jones.
For example, in areas of the county zoned for rural agricultural conservation, greenhouses are a permitted use.
“But we don’t control what the greenhouse grows, and under this new legislation, marijuana is just another agricultural product,” Jones said.
Aside from the voters’ ability to ban the retail sale of marijuana through the referendum, the only other locality of oversight is to set the hours of operation for retail marijuana stores. Counties, towns and villages can control where retail establishments in general can locate by passing zoning ordinances, but not what those retailers can sell.
According to Jones, Virginia plans to regulate the cultivation, manufacture and retail distribution of marijuana by asking the new Virginia Cannabis Control Authority to issue licenses, much like the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. state currently issues licenses for the sale of alcohol at retail. According to Jones, there are no more than 400 licenses for marijuana retail stores issued statewide.
In 2020, Virginia decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, meaning those who possess it for personal use now face only a civil fine of $ 25 rather than criminal charges and the possibility of ‘incarceration. On July 1 of this year, Virginia will become the first southern state to legalize non-medical possession. Fifteen other states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar legalization laws.
While federal agencies have taken a hands-off enforcement approach in states that have adopted legalization measures, possession of non-medical marijuana remains technically a federal crime. Transportation or distribution across state borders is also still illegal.
“It’s still illegal in the federal system, all that… for how long I don’t know, but right now it is,” Jones said.
Virginia’s legalization law includes a revival clause, meaning the General Assembly must re-vote on the matter in its 2022 session. During the 2021 session, the Virginia Senate blocked 20- 20 on the then proposed legislation with Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax voting for approval. The House of Delegates approved it 53-44 along party lines, with no Republican backing the measure and a single Democrat siding with the Republicans against.
According to Washington Post coverage of the 2021 session, Republicans in the House and Senate had argued that postponing the legalization date for possession to this July would foster an illicit marijuana trade during the years that ‘it would take the state to have its legal market in place by 2024, but Democrats argued that the earlier date would resolve a racial disparity in marijuana-related arrests.
According to a November 2020 study by the Virginia Joint Audit and Legislative Review Commission (JLARC), black Virginians have historically been arrested and convicted of marijuana-related crimes at a disproportionate rate. From 2010 to 2019, the average annual arrest rate for possession of marijuana was 6.3 per 1,000 for blacks, about 3.5 times higher than the arrest rate for whites, although surveys countries have consistently shown little difference in the number of blacks compared to whites who report using marijuana.
Locally, the JLARC study found that the number of blacks arrested for possession of marijuana was 4.0 to 5.9 times the number of whites arrested for the same offense in Isle of Wight county from 2015 to 2019. The population of the Isle of Wight is approximately 37,000. is 72.7% white and 23.2% black, according to the 2019 U.S. Census estimates.
In Suffolk and Southampton County, the racial disparity in marijuana arrests was lower. Blacks in these communities were arrested for possession of marijuana 3.0 to 3.9 times more often than whites. Suffolk’s population of around 90,000 is made up of 51.5% white and 41.8% black. The approximately 17,000 inhabitants of Southampton are 62.3% white and 34.7% black.
Surry County, which has about 6,400 residents, of which 55.2% are white and 41.5% black, did not have enough data to show a disparity in marijuana arrests, according to the JLARC study. In the city of Franklin, which has a population of about 8,000 and is predominantly African-American, the racial distribution of marijuana arrests for the same time period was almost even for blacks and whites.
The JLARC study also surveyed each county and city to find out whether their local government would be likely to allow or ban commercial marijuana if allowed to do so. County of the Isle of Wight, County of Surry and Suffolk were all listed in this report as likely to allow it, while counties of Franklin and Southampton were listed as uncertain.
But based on comments at a June 3 supervisory board meeting, the Isle of Wight government could end up going both ways. Smithfield District Supervisor and Board Chairman Dick Grice, who attended the meeting remotely, said he was concerned about people who may be driving under the influence of marijuana and having accidents – and what the county sheriff’s office and emergency services department could incur to keep pace. with a potentially growing number of marijuana users.
“We have enough problems with drunk drivers,” said Grice. “Now we’re going to add another level to it. “
But Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson saw the problem differently.
“In this county we sell cigarettes, we sell wine, beer, alcohol, why are we so concerned about marijuana? He asked.
Jefferson said he believes marijuana poses less danger to the public than people going to restaurants, ordering several alcoholic drinks, and then attempting to drive home.
Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said he was concerned about second-hand smoke inhalation of non-marijuana users and that they could develop smoking-related illnesses later in life.
“I think it’s ironic that we’ve tried so hard, at least in my lifetime, to cut down on tobacco use… smoking is smoking; it’s going to damage your lungs and cause things like COPD, ”Acree said.
“I like the idea of letting citizens make that kind of decision,” Newport District Supervisor William McCarty said of the referendum.