Virginia should establish a Cannabis Cabinet to steer its effort to legalize marijuana, according to a work group that released nearly 500 pages of recommendations Monday. The report, ordered by law last year, adds that the cabinet should learn from the efforts of 10 states where it’s legal to sell recreational marijuana, with a focus on how a new industry can correct for racism in drug enforcement.
“What it means is that this is being taken seriously, that we know this is coming, and that Virginia wants to do it right,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who plans to sponsor a bill to legalize marijuana.
The 23-member work group interviewed federal leaders, state regulators, law enforcement, addiction specialists, and community advocates. It found that Black Virginians are approximately three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than their white counterparts; the ratio is higher in some places including Arlington, where Black Virginians are eight times as likely to be arrested for marijuana-related charges than white residents.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of the pro-legalizing organization Virginia NORML and a member of the work group, said those statistics informed the group’s approach. [Read more at WAMU]