Marijuana, masks and other legislation

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State Sen. Joe Morrissey (D) and state Sen. Amanda Chase (R) provided an update on some pending legislation in the General Assembly last weekend. 

Senate Bill 313, a replacement bill that Morrissey submitted that would have allowed industrial hemp growers in the state to sell marijuana to those without a medical marijuana card, failed 21-19 on Feb. 15. 

Morrissey said the bill would help hemp farmers in Virginia. It had the support of 15 Republicans and four Democrats.

In addition to Morrissey, other Democrats who supported the bill were John J. Bell, Lionel Spruill and Chap Petersen. Republicans who voted against it included Travis Hackworth, Steve Newman, Tommy Norment and Dave Sutterlein. 

Morrissey was clearly miffed at Norment and said he was acting “like a petulant child. He lets his ego get in the way of good legislation.” Morrissey said Norment doesn’t like it because he’s not majority leader anymore. 

Morrissey noted that Senate Bill 391 — which passed the Senate with only one Republican vote, Siobhan Dunnavant — does some of the same things as SB313 but also has a social justice component for black and brown persons that likely will have a hard time getting out of the House Courts of Justice Committee. 

Currently, it is legal for a person to grow marijuana or give it away in Virginia, but one can’t buy or sell it unless one has a medical marijuana card. 

Budget amendments

Morrissey noted that two amendments would be considered in the Senate in regard to allowing Petersburg residents to vote on hosting a casino. 

One amendment would authorize the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, or JLARC, to determine if Petersburg is a suitable host city. 

Another would prohibit Richmond from doing another referendum of its residents for a casino until the JLARC study regarding Petersburg is complete.

Morrissey, a strong proponent of bringing a casino to Petersburg for economic development, said he’s getting more support from Republican senators for the amendments than Democrats. 

Last November, Richmond voters narrowly rejected such a referendum. 

Judges

In regard to judges, Morrissey said the Senate would be considering two replacement judges for Lynn S. Brice, who wasn’t renewed earlier this year, and Frederick G. Rockwell III, who retired at the end of last year. Brice can serve the remainder of this year, while Rockwell can serve as a substitute judge. 

Abortion

Morrissey said an abortion-related bill or two may get out of the Republican-controlled House this session. He said he would consider signing a discharge petition to get such a bill onto the Senate floor if it can’t get through Senate committees, which are controlled by Democrats. 

Masks

Morrissey was one of three Democrats to support Senate Bill 739, which passed the Senate 21-17 and 21-19 in two separate votes, the latter was for Gov. Glen Youngkin’s amendments. Other Democrats who voted yes were Lynwood Lewis Jr. and Peterson. The bill allows public school students and their parents to decide whether or not to wear a mask at school beginning March 1. 

In an email to constituents, Chase noted that it does not apply to teachers, thanks to a floor amendment by Petersen. 

“[Youngkin] added an emergency clause to the bill so that once passed it would go into effect March 1 instead of July 1 when most bills go into effect. It was a miracle,” Chase said. 

Electioneering

Chase noted that she plans to run in new Senate District 12, which added the Bon Air area of the county where she grew up. Chase lives in the district and apparently will see competition in the Republican primary in 2023 from religious freedom nonprofit owner Tina Ramirez and former one-term Sen. Glen Sturtevant, who was defeated by Ghazala Hashmi in 2019. Hashmi would have to move to do so, but recently announced that she plans to run in new Senate District 15, which includes Chester and Southeast Richmond. The Democrat-leaning District 15 is where Morrissey currently lives, although he likely will run in new Senate District 13, which includes Petersburg and Hopewell. No other senator currently lives in that district. 

Chase and Ramirez dropped plans to run for Congress and challenge U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) following changes to legislative and congressional maps that were approved by the state Supreme Court. Spanberger plans to run in the new Seventh Congressional District centered around Fredericksburg. It includes some of her current constituents.

Chesterfield residents would likely be represented by U.S. Reps. Donald McEachin (D) and Rob Wittman (R). 

Wittman’s First Congressional District includes Williamsburg and the Northern Neck and adds an appendage that picks up western Henrico and western Chesterfield counties. 

 

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