Marijuana legalization bills are approaching a floor vote in both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate. In addition to removing criminal penalties, the 274-page bills essentially create an entire industry, including regulation of business licenses, creating taxes, and incentivizing entrepreneurs to enter the market.
But Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) said all of that is just a shell.
“This has nothing to do with marijuana legalization,” he said on Thursday on The John Fredericks Show.
Davis said, “That’s the shell for what this bill really does, which is literally find individuals that have been arrested in the past or are family members of people that have been arrested in the past, if you’re a brother, sister, mother, or child of someone that was convicted for marijuana possession you also qualify for a set-aside license and also for a no or low interest loan from the state of Virginia to get your business off the ground.”
The bills prioritize business licenses to social equity license applicants, which includes applicants with at least a 66 percent ownership share by someone with marijuana offense convictions. (Page 130 of the bill)
“[Both bills] include equity licenses that are available to a broader group than just those charged with possession,” SB 1406 sponsor Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) told The Virginia Star.
SB 1406 has a companion in the House, HB 2312, filed by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria).
Social equity license applicants also include relatives of those with marijuana convictions, applicants who live in areas with disproportionately harsh marijuana policing, applicants living in an economically distressed area, and applicants who attended a historically black college or university in Virginia.
They also prioritize social equity applicants through a Cannabis Equity Business Loan Fund that offers zero and low-interest loans.
“Moneys in the Fund shall be used solely for the purposes of providing low-interest and zero-interest loans to social equity qualified cannabis licensees in order to foster business ownership and economic growth within communities that have been the most disproportionately impacted by the former prohibition of cannabis,” the bill states on page 170.
Davis acknowledged that the provisions are meant to help communities where marijuana laws have been unfairly enforced. But he said it would be better to invest the money directly in the communities.
“My big question is, what signals does this send to our youth? What is the next thing to get legalized that’s illegal today?” Davis said, “To get ahead economically, you need to go get convicted of it, arrested and convicted, so you’ll be at the front of the line if and when it gets legalized.”
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John Fredericks is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Virginia Star.
He is also a Trump 2020 delegate and the chairman of the Trump Virginia Delegation.