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JLARC Recommends Changes to Marijuana Policies

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Steve Helber
/
AP

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission recommended that legislators make changes to Virginia’s new marijuana policies such as adding penalties and reconsidering eligibility for social equity licenses ahead of July 1st in a briefing Monday.

Mark Gribbin, project leader on JLARC's marijuana study, presented the recommendations to legislators.

“Public possession limits and penalties are not as graduated as we suggested in contrast to other states,” said Gribbin, who recommended adding a misdemeanor for possessing between an ounce and a pound of marijuana.

“Essentially you would keep the civil penalty in place for small amounts above the legal limit, and then have a misdemeanor charge that would start at an amount somewhere between the civil penalty and the felony offense.”

Virginia's new law legalizes possessing less than an ounce of marijuana. Having larger amounts would be a $25 fine, up to a pound or more, which would be a felony.

“The creation of this misdemeanor will not do anything to keep society more safe. It will do more to extract resources and people from black and brown communities,” said Chelsea Higgs Wise, the executive director of Marijuana Justice.

Higgs Wise was encouraged by other parts of the presentation. The law provides for social equity licenses, which would attempt to guide funds from legalization to people impacted by marijuana prohibition. JLARC suggested reconsidering the licenses eligibility criteria.

“We are also concerned that the social equity components will not truly target those that have been impacted and are excited to work more closely with the legislators on that,” said Higgs Wise.

The new law goes into effect on July 1st.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

***Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified the JLARC staffer who presented to legislators. 

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