Marijuana legalization legislation falls short of equity and fairness
3/4/2021, 6 p.m.
Along with many other individuals, groups and organizations across Virginia, the Cannabis Equity Coalition of Virginia, or CECVA, is disheartened with the details within the legalization of marijuana bill that was approved by the General Assembly.
Do Black lives really matter in Virginia?
If Black lives truly do matter, then Gov. Ralph S. Northam and the Virginia legislators should follow the recently passed New Jersey legalization of marijuana and allocate 70 percent of tax revenue from recreational sales of marijuana to be used exclusively to repair the damage done by Virginia’s war on drugs.
If Black lives truly do matter and Gov. Northam is sincere about racial, social and economic justice and helping to eliminate poverty and providing opportunities for people of color to create generational wealth, then 70 percent of the taxes should be allocated for re-investment by a Cannabis Community Reinvestment Board, which should be made up of Black people and other affected persons from communities impoverished by the war on drugs.
Why is it that Virginia has no problem advocat- ing and enforcing maximum sentences for minor marijuana offenses, but when it comes to advo- cating for maximum restitution for such unfair treatment in the neediest communities, Gov. Northam and lawmakers have become very si- lent and non-responsive to the people’s request for not only racial and social justice but economic and equity justice as well.
During the General Assembly session that ended last week, CECVA advocated for its top three interests dealing with the toughest portions of marijuana legalization. The bill that passed is totally short of Gov. Northam’s stated goals and promises, as well as the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s well-researched admissions about the need for equity and fairness.
In addition, CECVA wants legislation to include specific requirements that adult-use marijuana licensees must include in their op- eration structures for full inclusion of junior partners — firms that are 100 percent owned by Black and brown Virginians — who gain knowledge about every aspect of the legal marijuana business to the extent that such firms are able to create and operate their own companies.
CECVA and many others across Virginia are calling for action by Gov. Northam, legisla- tors, statewide candidates in upcoming elections and officials in the Office of Inclusion and Di- versity to address these three specific economic justice interests.
CECVA also is calling for action from all people of color to wake up and get involved, support CECVA and help CECVA hold Gov. Northam and legislators accountable and responsible for proving that Black lives really do matter in Virginia.
The writer is a founding member of CECVA.