McClellan Introduced Amendments to Center Equity in Marijuana Legalization
Today, Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) released the following statement on the General Assembly’s passage of a bill to reform marijuana laws in Virginia:
“For the past year I’ve focused on ensuring marijuana legalization is done in a way that redresses the disproportionate impact prohibition has had on Black and Brown Communities,” McClellan said. “The bill we passed today moves the ball forward, but let’s be clear: this is not marijuana legalization. It sets up a framework to get us on a path to legalization in 2024, gives JLARC an opportunity to compare the framework to it’s report, and ensures additional General Assembly action prior to marijuana reform and legalization. I am disappointed my amendment to end prohibition of simple possession on July 1, 2021, did not make the conference report, and encourage Governor Northam to include that in the final bill.
“We have a long way to go on enacting marijuana legalization in an equitable way that redresses the harms of prohibition on Black and Brown communities. I’ll be watching the implementation and further legislation like a hawk to make sure that our next steps put criminal justice reform and social equity at the forefront and include all community stakeholders.”
Sen. McClellan had introduced an amendment for legalization to take effect in July 2021 rather than 2024 to address the disproportionate penalization Black and Brown communities have faced even after decriminalization.
In 2020, McClellan led the passage of a resolution (SJ 67) for the Joint Legislative and Review Commission to study and make recommendations for how Virginia should legalize and regulate the growth, sale, and possession of marijuana, with a focus on policies to redress historic inequities caused by marijuana criminalization. The study, released in November, made specific recommendations for legalization with a focus on equity. The JLARC study also showed that from 2010–2019, the average arrest rate of Black individuals for marijuana possession was 3.5 times higher than the arrest rate for white individuals.
Sen. McClellan also introduced an amendment to SB 1046 which would give formerly incarcerated individuals priority for commercial distribution licenses.
Jennifer McClellan was elected to the Senate of Virginia in 2017 after serving 11 years in the House of Delegates. She has been a leader on fighting climate change, strengthening public education and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, protecting voting rights, enacting criminal justice reform, combating domestic and sexual violence, and fighting discrimination of all kinds.