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  • Eli Hunt

Addressing Social Equity in Virginia’s New Marijuana Laws

When the Virginia legislature first began drafting marijuana legislation, they obviously had a lot of issues to address related to everything from sales and recreational use to, of course, medical marijuana and its therapeutic applications.

What you might not know is that some key provisions in the legislation related to social equity in the state. That’s right— if you have a Virginia medical marijuana card, you may be doing your part in the future to increase social equity in the Commonwealth! Why were these provisions included? Read on to find out.

The Impact of the War on Drugs On Virginia's Minority Communities

There was no official declaration of war, but the federal government has waged a ‘war’ on drugs for decades now that still exists to this day and that war resonated as strongly in Virginia as it did anywhere in the U.S. As many a cannabis fan knows, the "War on Drugs" included categorizing drugs into different classes and prosecuting anyone in possession of or selling those drugs.

From the perspective of many activists in Virginia and beyond, this war on drugs created systemic disparities for people of color. Drug arrests, lopsided sentencing and rehabilitation policies all disproportionately affected minority communities. Many believe that these disparities, in turn, functioned as a form of structural violence against Black Americans in particular.

Righting the Wrongs with Cannabis!

As this perspective has gained momentum, states across the U.S. have begun to draft equity components into their marijuana legislation that would work to rectify these historic injustices. Virginia stepped up and decided to join in, inspired by regional social activists and activists within the cannabis community itself!

The provisions addressing social equity would funnel revenue from the sales of recreational marijuana (slated to begin in 2024) into an equity fund. This fund would focus on equity initiatives in cannabis, including entrepreneurial opportunities for women and minorities looking to break into the business.

The state also slated a specific percentage of licenses that would eventually be given to recreational sellers for women and minorities. Who knew that a little gummy could be so powerful?

The legislation also included provisions that would allow for the expungement of certain drug sentences and for providing opportunities to those impacted by unfair sentencing practices.

The movement caught on. Regional Virginia cannabis producers such as Columbia Care joined forces with activist organizations in the state to ensure that social equity continued to be a central part of Virginia cannabis culture.

The State of Affairs Today

Unfortunately, the tide may be turning against social equity components in Virginia’s marijuana legislation after the 2021 election. With the election of Governor Youngkin into the governor’s office, Republicans are moving to redefine much of the Commonwealth’s legislative agenda, including marijuana policy.

In January of 2022, Republicans in the State legislature introduced amendments to marijuana laws that would eliminate a crucial sentence related to equity. Youngkin himself has expressed discomfort in interviews with social equity in cannabis, including sentencing reversals and the equity fund.

What the future will hold for these important social equity initiatives remains to be seen! Hopefully, marijuana in Virginia will continue to play a key part in righting the wrongs of the last several decades and the War on Drugs.

Get Your VA Marijuana Card Today!

You can change the way things are done moving forward in the Commonwealth by supporting medical marijuana. Getting your Virginia medical marijuana signals to the legislation that marijuana and the social equity it can facilitate are here to stay!

Schedule an appointment with an online VA medical marijuana doctor today, to start gaining access to safe, legal cannabis products, including tinctures, flower, concentrates and more!


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