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General Assembly faces decisions on marijuana licenses

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Members of the General Assembly need to figure out how the new marijuana industry works and how licenses are distributed. Some Republicans are uncomfortable with the system of creating social-equity licenses that benefit people who have been harmed by the War on Drugs.

But Jenn Michelle Pedini at Virginia NORML says abandoning that approach would be a mistake. "One of the driving factors in 2021 for enacting legalization was to undo the damage done to Virginia and Virginians by decades of prohibition.”

Lawmakers are also considering reinstating misdemeanor criminal penalties for possession of four ounces to a pound, although Senator Adam Ebbin of Alexandria says another way to approach that would be increasing the civil penalty beyond $25.

"Whether or not it has to be one that carries a criminal record I haven't made a final conclusion," Ebbin says. "I think the idea of discouraging larger amounts is worthwhile, and we have to decide the best way to do that."

Lawmakers will also be reconsidering whether localities will have to hold a referendum to opt out of legal sales in their community or whether they would have to ask voters if they want to opt in. Plus there's the labor question of whether workers in this new industry are able to engage in collective bargaining.

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

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.