Even though Virginia has decriminalized cannabis as of first thing next month, the state’s Black caucus would like to see things move to full legalization. Their plan is to try and push that through in a special legislative session this summer.
“The Commonwealth is past the point for studies on policing and law enforcement—immediate action must be taken to eliminate law enforcement abuse, prevent and punish racist behaviors, weed out institutional discrimination, and increase accountability at all levels of law enforcement,” the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) said in their official statement. “The country and the Commonwealth stand at the threshold of substantial and necessary social and political change. As leaders, the next steps are to ensure that there is a bold swing towards greater racial and social justice and change across Virginia.
“And the work does not stop here. In the coming weeks, VLBC members will be hosting events to engage community members to receive feedback and input on the agenda leading up to the Special Session,” the group added in their statement. “The caucus will continue to work with the community to ensure the voices of the people are heard, continue to incorporate community input, and continue to work with the community to pursue these goals. The VLBC understands this evolving list as a part of the work needed to ensure that Black lives truly matter in our Commonwealth.”
The Fine Details
Their plan is to introduce legalization in August’s special session as well as file bills to get going with expungement of cannabis records, banning of no-knock warrants, and the publication of racial data in criminal justice in order to push for positive change.
Although Virginia is also looking at two other paths to legalization this year in the legislative session, the Black legislative caucus wants to make sure legalization is done in a fair, equitable way that also prioritizes overturning past convictions and bringing forth a new future.
It’s not clear yet whether Governor Ralph Northam will support further legalization efforts, but he also has yet to speak out against them. In addition to the Black legislative caucus, other human rights groups like the ACLU in Virginia are supporting swift legalization, claiming that it is finally time to end the racial profiling associated with the war on drugs.
“Governor Northam is proud to stand with the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus in their push for systemic criminal justice and police reform, and looks forward to reviewing specific legislation,” a spokesperson for the governor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding all these changes.
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While it’s not yet clear if Virginia is going to move forward with the Black legislative caucus’ plan for legalization, or either of the other two plans, these are all positive steps to keep Black people from being disproportionately targeted by legislation, and to move towards cannabis legalization and acceptance.