Marijuana plant

(The Center Square) – Legislation to legalize marijuana for recreational use advanced through a Virginia Senate committee this week, along with a series of other criminal justice reform bills, including a bill to eliminate most of the state’s mandatory minimum requirements.

Senate Bill 1406, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, would legalize the production, sale and use of recreational marijuana in the commonwealth for adults 21 years or older. It advanced through the Judiciary committee with a 9-5 vote and has been referred to the Finance and Appropriations committee.

The original language of the legislation would have allowed adults to buy marijuana beginning in 2023, but a substitute of the bill postpones this until 2024 unless it is sped up by the General Assembly. The delay provides time for the state to issue licenses for cultivation, transport and sale of the product and for the infrastructure to get ready for a new legal market.

The legislation also includes an automatic expungement process for those convicted of marijuana-related crimes and requires localities to formally opt out of the marijuana marketplace if they choose to prohibit the sale in their jurisdiction.

Similar legislation is working its way through the House. The effort has substantial support from Democrats and opposition from Republicans. Democrats control both chambers of the General Assembly and Gov. Northam said he plans to sign marijauana legalization if it comes to his desk.

Legislation that would automatically expunge records for certain misdemeanors and felonies also advanced through the committee. Senate Bill 1283, sponsored by Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Henrico, was incorporated into Senate Bill 1339, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon and advanced 9-3 with three abstentions.

Senate bill 1306, which would eliminate the six-month mandatory minimum for assault on a judge, magistrate or law-enforcement officer, also advanced through the committee. The bill, sponsored by Morrisey, advanced with a 9-5 vote. Lawmakers are also working on legislation that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for most felonies in Virginia.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.