Legislation to legalize, decriminalize marijuana in Virginia fails

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NORFOLK, Va. – One local Virginia House Delegate’s effort to legalize and decriminalize marijuana in Virginia has failed.

Del. Stephen Heretick (D), who represents parts of Norfolk and Portsmouth, shared Wednesday evening that legislation he introduced (HB 2371) was struck down during a vote in the House Courts of Justice Committee earlier that day.

“It’s a sad day for Virginia. Today the House Courts of Justice Committee defeated both my marijuana legalization and decriminalization bills. This is just the beginning of the fight,” Steve Heretick remarked in a Facebook post to supporters. “I have heard from thousands of Virginians this week who have flooded my office with calls, emails, visits, and social media posts, sharing their personal stories. I have been truly touched by the outpouring of support. I decided to take a bold stand and while many politicians in Richmond quietly supported the bill, only a few had the courage to stand publicly with me. I will continue to fight for Virginians of all walks of life, from all political backgrounds, who believe as I do, that marijuana prohibition has been a failure. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your support and for standing with me.”

Heretick said that as a former Justice Department attorney and as President of the Virginia Board of Medicine, he understands the risk of any type of intoxicant. But he said the decision to use marijuana is a personal choice made by adults.

The bill would have set up a regulatory framework that would allow for the cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of marijuana and its products throughout the Commonwealth to adults 21 years of age or older. It also would have allowed the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to issue licenses for cultivation and retail distribution of marijuana as well as provide for limited home cultivation for personal use, according to a release from Heretick’s office.

Heretick has served as Virginia’s 79th District House Delegate since 2016. Before that, he served on Portsmouth’s City Council from 2004 to 2012.

So far, Virginia lawmakers have proposed six bills to decriminalize simple marijuana possession.

As other states have relaxed their laws against marijuana, citizens across Virginia gathered together last Saturday in Richmond to discuss how to persuade the General Assembly to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in the commonwealth.

About 150 people, including health care providers and attorneys, attended the Virginia 2019 Cannabis Conference, held by the Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Virginia NORML advocates decriminalizing possession of marijuana and regulating medical and recreational-use production and sales of the substance.

Ten states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized the sale of Marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Virginia in recent years has been more open to the benefits of cannabis.

In February 2018, the Virginia Senate and House both passed House Bill 1251, which allows for the supply of  CBD oil or THC-A oil can be dispensed by a pharmaceutical processor from a 30-day supply to a 90-day supply in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Also, the Commonwealth established the opening of its first five medical cannabis dispensaries for non-psychoactive CBD and THC-A oils, one of which will open up in Portsmouth in 2019. 

Related link: 

From cannabis to gambling: Virginia’s progressive 2018

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