Marijuana, Confederate monuments and inclusion: What you missed this week in the General Assembly

Illustration by Kamryn Gillham

Hannah Eason, News Editor
Andrew Ringle, Managing Editor

Senate rolls forward with marijuana legislation

On Wednesday, the Senate Subcommittee on Criminal Law passed Senate Bill 2, which would decriminalize the possession of marijuana in Virginia and decrease civil penalties to a fine of $50 or less. The measure passed 10-3 and was referred to the Finance and Appropriations committee. Two similar bills are currently in the House of Delegates’ Committee on Courts and Justice. House Bill 87 would legalize the simple possession of marijuana, while HB 265 would decriminalize it.


Senate passes bill establishing Virginia Spirits Board to oversee farming, advertising in alcohol industry

Bills outlining a Virginia Spirits Board, which would improve farming practices for ingredients necessary for alcohol distillation in the state, have made it to the House and Senate. The board could also improve revenues by entering contracts to advertise and promote the industry. The Senate has passed SB 583, while the full House read its version, HB 1436, on Tuesday.


Dems switch, block one of Northam’s top gun control bills 

The state Senate voted against a bill on Monday that would make it a felony to leave a loaded firearm unsecured in the presence of a minor, blocking one of Gov. Ralph Northam’s top gun control bills. SB 581 failed to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 7-8 following a switch from two moderate Democrats, Sens. Creigh Deeds and Chap Peterson.


Advancing bill would allow localities to remove Confederate monuments

A bill that would allow localities to remove war monuments, including those honoring the Confederacy, advanced along party lines Monday out of a state Senate committee. Richmond City Council asked the General Assembly last month for permission to remove Confederate statues on Monument Avenue, and now that Democrats are in the majority, the council may get its way.


Holding a phone while driving may become illegal

The state Senate approved a bill that would ban holding a phone while driving and charge such an offense with up to $250 in fines. A similar bill in the House was endorsed Monday in subcommittee. Richmond’s ban on holding a phone while driving will go into effect in June regardless of the General Assembly’s decisions.


Resolution focuses on inclusion, denounces Islamophobia, anti-Semitism

A joint resolution from the House of Delegates that passed on Friday establishes Virginia’s commitment to foster an inclusive environment for every person regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation and other characteristics. The resolution has now been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules. A joint resolution does not have the force of law, and it can be brought forth from either house without the governor’s signature. The bill specifies that the General Assembly denounces hate speech and crimes, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

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