Supervisors plan to give voters final say on whether to allow retail marijuana in 2024
The legalized pot arrives in Virginia in just over two months, thanks to Gov. Ralph Northam and the Democratic-controlled state legislature. Before Chesterfield County gets a piece of the action, however, it looks like voters will decide whether or not to allow retail stores to sell it locally.
The five members of the county supervisory board, in separate interviews with the Observer last week, approved the inclusion of the question in the November 2022 general election ballot as a referendum question.
“The state is doing what it is doing, but my position on this is very simple: the decision will be made by the residents of Chesterfield County,” said Jim Ingle, Bermuda District Supervisor, one of the four. Republicans from the local governance body.
Possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, personal use, and cultivation of up to four cannabis plants becomes legal throughout the Commonwealth on July 1 under amended legislation approved by party votes early in the United States. months by the General Assembly.
Other provisions of the law, including establishing a regulatory and licensing structure for the retail sale of marijuana, are not expected to come into effect until January 1, 2024.
In the meantime, courts in Virginia are allowed to ask citizens as early as next November whether they prefer to withdraw from this business activity.
There are important financial considerations for local governments, which will be able to levy a 3% tax on all legal purchases of marijuana within their respective limits. Based on economic data from other states that have adopted legalization over the past decade, this is a potentially lucrative new source of income.
Virginia’s new weed legislation does not require localities to hold a referendum; in the absence of such action, the retail sale of marijuana would be permitted subject to state law and local zoning regulations.
Yet Chesterfield supervisors have each said they would not feel comfortable moving forward without giving their 350,000 voters a chance to speak out on the issue. “We haven’t talked about it yet, but I don’t think you’ll see this council pass up without citizens having a say,” said Midlothian District Supervisor Leslie Haley, who is seeking nomination. by the Republican Party for Attorney General next month.
A pot referendum could provide another window into the current political climate in Chesterfield, a historically conservative county and one of Virginia’s last major jurisdictions still controlled by the GOP, but which has increasingly supported Democrats in recent years. years.
Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Chesterfield by more than 13,000 votes last November, becoming the first Democratic Party presidential candidate to carry the county since 1948.
In the aftermath of the election, University of Mary Washington political science professor Stephen Farnsworth noted that Biden’s victory at Chesterfield was a continuation of a trend that had emerged three years earlier, when Northam became the first Democratic gubernatorial candidate to win the county since 1961.
In between those two races, the constituency of Chesterfield in the 7th US House District also played a decisive role in Democrat Abigail Spanberger’s 2018 victory over incumbent Rep. Dave Brat.
“Virginia has become less red over time, and Chesterfield with it,” Farnsworth said last November.
Dominance in Fairfax County and other populous towns in northern Virginia helped Democrats topple both houses of the General Assembly in 2019, ushering in a series of progressive legislative priorities – most recently when Virginia became the first southern state to legalize marijuana.
No Republican voted for the bill, which passed the House of Delegates 53-44 and demanded a decisive vote from Democratic Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax to carry the Senate.
“It is not in the best interests of our citizens to have people in court for small amounts of marijuana,” said Dale District Supervisor Jim Holland, the only Democrat on the Board of Supervisors and its chairman. this year.
Conversely, Matoaca District Supervisor Kevin Carroll, a retired police officer from Chesterfield, expressed concern over the message sent to youth about drug use though retail stores of state-approved marijuana were starting to appear in the county in 2024 and beyond.
“If you don’t put it in front of someone’s face, maybe they don’t think about it,” he says.
Between now and the November 2022 referendum on retail sales, Holland has stressed the need for local government to have ‘clear and succinct communication’ with the community so that Chesterfield residents know exactly what they are voting for and how the revenue from the taxation of marijuana purchases would be used.
“It will happen in enough [neighboring] jurisdictions that will impact Chesterfield whether our referendum question goes one way or the other, ”added Clover Hill District Supervisor Chris Winslow, Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board. “The marijuana is going to be here. This decision was largely taken away from us. The question is: “Do we want the tax revenues or not?” “