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Attorney General of Virginia

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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

STATEMENT OF ATTORNEY GENERAL MARK R. HERRING

~ In response to JLARC’s report “Key Considerations for Marijuana Legalization” ~

RICHMOND Attorney General Mark R. Herring, one of the Commonwealth’s leading advocates for cannabis reform and marijuana legalization, issued the below statement in response to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission’s (JLARC) report “Key Considerations for Marijuana Legalization.”

 

“This JLARC report just confirms what I have long been saying – Virginia needs to allow legal, regulated adult use of marijuana as a matter of public safety, justice, equity, and economic opportunity,” said Attorney General Herring. “For too long, the Commonwealth’s approach to cannabis was needlessly and disproportionately saddling Black Virginians and people of color with convictions and this report shows just how important legalizing marijuana is for promoting equity in Virginia. 

 

“We now have an even clearer picture of how disproportionately Virginia’s marijuana laws were affecting Black Virginians and Virginians of color, but we also have a more defined roadmap for how to navigate and implement these policies. I am proud of what we have already been able to accomplish and I look forward to working with my colleagues and advocacy partners as we continue to move Virginia forward on a path towards full legalization.”

 

The JLARC report found, among other things, that:

  • Past marijuana convictions should be automatically expunged – this could benefit at least 120,000 Virginians and at least half of those would be Black Virginians and people of color
  • The marijuana industry is predominantly controlled by non-people of color and Virginia must give serious consideration to how to make the industry more equitable
  • The marijuana industry would create 11,000 new jobs in Virginia
  • The General Assembly is in a position to quickly legalize and regulate marijuana and have the industry set up in a matter of a couple years
  • Marijuana legalization could generate more than $300 million in tax revenue by the fifth year and Virginia could use this revenue to fund community assistance programs
  • Black Virginians are arrested 3.5x higher than whites for marijuana-related charges and marijuana legalization would reduce marijuana arrests by 84%
  • Virginia could mitigate public health risks for legalization, especially youth use

 

During the 2020 General Assembly Session, Attorney General Herring helped successfully decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, after he become the leader on cannabis reform in Virginia following his call for decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, action to address past convictions, and a move towards legal and regulated adult use. In his call for cannabis reform, he cited the unnecessary negative impact of a criminal conviction for possession, the expense and social costs of enforcing the current system, and the disparate impact on African Americans and people and communities of color. Attorney General Herring reiterated his call for reform when data from 2018 showed a record number of arrests for marijuana possession. In the last decade the number of first-time marijuana convictions in Virginia has risen 53%, from 6,533 in 2008 to 10,000 in 2017. Arrests for marijuana possession have increased about 220%, from around 9,000 in 1999 to nearly 29,000 in 2018. The cost of marijuana criminal enforcement is estimated to exceed $81 million each year. In December 2019, Attorney General Herring held a cannabis summit for policymaking stakeholders in Virginia that focused on policy and included experts from attorneys generals’ offices, state agencies and legislative operations in states that have legalized cannabis, as well as cannabis policy experts.

 

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