A new law decriminalizing possession of marijuana in Virginia is set to go into effect next week, and the state legislature’s black caucus is already pushing colleagues to go further by fully legalizing cannabis in an upcoming special session this summer.
“The Commonwealth is past the point for studies on policing and law enforcement—immediate action must be taken to eliminate law enforcement abuse, prevent and punish racist behaviors, weed out institutional discrimination, and increase accountability at all levels of law enforcement,” the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus (VLBC) said in a list of priorities it released on Wednesday. “The country and the Commonwealth stand at the threshold of substantial and necessary social and political change. As leaders, the next steps are to ensure that there is a bold swing towards greater racial and social justice and change across Virginia.”
In addition to pledging to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana in the upcoming August session, the 23-member caucus also plans to file bills to implement automatic expungement, ban no-knock warrants, require courts to publish racial data on people charged with low-level offenses and enact other sweeping criminal justice reforms.
“And the work does not stop here. In the coming weeks, VLBC members will be hosting events to engage community members to receive feedback and input on the agenda leading up to the Special Session,” the group said. “The caucus will continue to work with the community to ensure the voices of the people are heard, continue to incorporate community input, and continue to work with the community to pursue these goals. The VLBC understands this evolving list as a part of the work needed to ensure that Black lives truly matter in our Commonwealth.”