Questions raised about legalizing marijuana and equity

1/7/2021, 6 p.m.
Re: “Coalition pushes Black inclusion in marijuana legalization,” Free Press Dec. 31, 2020-Jan. 2, 2021, edition:

Re: “Coalition pushes Black inclusion in marijuana legalization,” Free Press Dec. 31, 2020-Jan. 2, 2021, edition:

By March 30, the Virginia General Assembly like- ly will have established laws and regulations to legalize the sale of marijuana across the state.

This might be a surprise to some, but not to others who have closely followed the legalization of medical marijuana in 2018, and the formation of various marijuana decriminalization laws that were enacted in 2020.

During the 2021 General Assembly session, legislators are set to legalize adult-use marijuana — marijuana that might well be cultivated, processed, shipped from and then sold not far from the street where you now live.

Interestingly, just like alcohol, the lottery, and seedy slot-machine parlors, adult-use marijuana seems to be all about the money — both for elites who already are set to own and run the industry and for a boatload of cash in tax revenue for Virginia. Let’s not forget that casino gambling also is right around the corner!

These activities have strong public support and we certainly can use the tax dollars. But shouldn’t Black folks be asking some very important questions about adult-use marijuana?

For instance:

  1. Given early projections of $300 million-plus in tax revenues, what portion will be directed to and used by Black people who have been disproportion- ally impacted by 60 years of damage caused by this so-called “war on drugs”?

  2. Given that medical marijuana licensing was done virtually in secret, with little public oversight, will the same be done with the adult-use cannabis industry?

  3. To even get into the medical marijuana license line, it took a $10,000 non-refundable application fee. Ouch! What will be the fee and criteria to get into the adult-use game, or will Black people and others get left out — to once again always be consumers and always denied ownership?

  4. Finally, where is the justice for those who are currently locked up for small amounts of marijuana and now have permanent criminal records, while the very privileged in society profitably engage in sell- ing pot unfettered? The Cannabis Equity Coalition of Virginia CECVA advocates that current inmates should be released immediately and their criminal records wiped clean.

It is instructive to learn that medical marijuana giant, Columbia Care, the licensee in Portsmouth, has announced the purchase of Green Leaf, the medical marijuana licensee here in Richmond, for a whopping $250 million. Heck, both Columbia Care and g-Leaf Medical Cannabis just opened a mere two months ago. To most folks, this smells like an inside deal and the beginning of a monopoly.

The Cannabis Equity Coalition of Virginia cordially invites all who are concerned to join this statewide effort before the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 13.