Virginia lawmakers are trying to reach a compromise on legalizing recreational marijuana for adults. Debate continues over how and when it should be legalized.
The Senate bill legalizes adult use in July, but the House bill holds off until the entire system is in place in 2024.
"We don't need to criminalize another generation of Black and brown youth,” said Ashna Khanna, the ACLU of Virginia’s legislative director.
Khanna said the bill should legalize adult use in July, although the lawmakers negotiating the deal seem to have settled on waiting until 2024.
The proposed marijuana bills also include penalties for people underage, including a $250 fine for a misdemeanor.
Just this week, the state of New Jersey passed its legalized marijuana plan that fine and charge people underage but sets them up with intervention services.
Khanna said that's the approach Virginia should take.
“So we know that the legal market and regulatory system is going to take a couple of years to set up — 2024 as they have it now. We can't risk more people getting caught up in the system for acting in ways that will be legal soon,” Khanna said.
Virginia lawmakers also are debating whether or not the commonwealth's five medical marijuana operators should be allowed to sell to recreational users.
The House opposes it, worrying that it could restrict smaller businesses from getting into the market.
The Senate would allow it but require those medical operators pay a $1 million fee to help smaller businesses get started.