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Trump impeached after Capitol riot in historic second charge

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was impeached for a second time Wednesday, charged with incitement of insurrection over the deadly mob attack on the Capitol last week.

With the Capitol secured by National Guard troops inside and out, the House voted 232-197 to impeach Trump. Ten Republicans fled Trump — including the No. 3 GOP leader, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — to join Democrats, who said he needed to be held accountable.

Democrats also warned ominously of a “clear and present danger” if Congress should leave him unchecked before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next Wednesday.

Trump becomes the only president to be impeached twice. It was the most bipartisan presidential impeachment in modern times, more so than against Bill Clinton in 1998.

The charges against Trump now go to the Senate, where a trial will not be held until after he leaves office.

It became increasingly certain Wednesday that Trump would not be removed from office prematurely. The impeachment resolution for “incitement of insurrection,” however, also seeks Trump’s future “disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.”

The proceedings had moved at lightning speed, with lawmakers voting just one week after Trump loyalists stormed the U.S. Capitol, egged on by the president’s calls for them to “fight like hell” against the results of last year’s election.

The Capitol insurrection stunned and angered lawmakers, who were sent scrambling for safety as the mob descended, and it revealed the fragility of the nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power.

The riot also forced a reckoning among some Republicans, who have stood by Trump throughout his presidency and largely allowed him to spread misinformation against the integrity of the election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., invoked Abraham Lincoln and the Bible, imploring lawmakers to uphold their oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

She said of Trump: “He must go. He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love.”

Trump remained at the White House, watching the proceedings on TV. He later released a video statement in which he made no mention of the impeachment but appealed to his supporters to refrain from further violence or disruption of Biden’s inauguration.

“Like all of you, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the calamity at the Capitol last week,” he said, his first condemnation of the attack. He appealed for unity “to move forward” and said, “Mob violence goes against everything I believe in and everything our movement stands for. ... No true supporter of mine could ever disrespect law enforcement.”

Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted in 2020 to acquit. No president has been convicted by the Senate.

The soonest the outgoing Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would start an impeachment trial is Tuesday, the day before Trump is set to leave the White House, McConnell’s office said. The legislation includes language intended to prevent Trump from running again.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said that unless McConnell reverses himself and agrees to quickly start the trial, it would begin after Tuesday. That’s about the time Democrats take over majority control of the Senate. The timetable essentially means McConnell is dropping the trial into Democrats’ laps.

McConnell believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and considers the Democrats’ impeachment drive an opportunity to reduce the divisive president’s hold on the GOP, a Republican strategist told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

McConnell told major donors over the weekend that he was through with Trump, said the strategist, who was granted anonymity to describe McConnell’s conversations.

In a note to colleagues Wednesday, McConnell said he had “not made a final decision on how I will vote.”

His openness was a stark contrast to the support or, at times, silence he’s shown during much of Trump’s presidency, and to the opposition he expressed rapidly when the House impeached Trump 13 months ago.

Once Biden is inaugurated, McConnell will be Washington’s most powerful Republican, and his increasingly chilly view of Trump could make it easier for other GOP lawmakers to turn against him.

His alienation from Trump, plus the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, underscored how the GOP’s reflexive support of Trump was eroding.

McConnell also issued a statement saying Congress and the government should spend the next week “completely focused on facilitating a safe inauguration and an orderly transfer of power” to Biden.

It is unclear how many Republicans would vote to convict Trump in a Senate trial, but it appears plausible that several would.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, on Wednesday told Alaska’s News Source, an Anchorage outlet, that Trump “has committed an impeachable offense.” She stopped short of saying if she’d vote to convict him.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., has said he would “definitely consider” House impeachment articles.

Even a major Trump ally, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., shifted his position and said Wednesday that the president bears responsibility for the horrifying day at the Capitol.

In making a case for the “high crimes and misdemeanors” demanded in the Constitution, the four-page impeachment resolution approved Wednesday relies on Trump’s own incendiary rhetoric and the misinformation he spread about Biden’s election victory, including at a rally near the White House on the day of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the riot, and police fatally wounded a woman during the siege. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.

The riot only delayed the tally of Electoral College votes that was the last step in finalizing Biden’s victory.

Cheney, whose father is the former Republican vice president, said of Trump’s actions summoning the mob that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a President” of his office.

Trump was said to be furious at the comments from McConnell and Cheney. With the team around Trump dwindling and his Twitter account silenced by the social media company, the president was deeply frustrated that he could not hit back, according to White House officials and Republicans close to the West Wing who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

From the White House, Trump urged Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to push Republican senators to resist, while chief of staff Mark Meadows called some of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill.

Impeaching Trump now would “do great damage to the institutions of government and could invite further violence,” Graham said in a statement Wednesday. He said Trump’s millions of backers “should not be demonized because of the despicable actions of a seditious mob,” but he did not specifically defend Trump’s actions last week.

“If there was a time for America’s political leaders to bend a knee and ask for God’s counsel and guidance, it is now. The most important thing for leaders to do in times of crisis is to make things better, not worse,” Graham said.

The president’s sturdy popularity with the GOP lawmakers’ constituents still had some sway, and most House Republicans voted not to impeach.

During the impeachment debate, some Republicans repeated the conspiracy claims spread by Trump about the election and argued that the president has been treated unfairly by Democrats from the day he took office.

Other Republicans argued the impeachment was a rushed sham and complained about a double standard applied to his supporters but not to liberals. Some simply appealed for the nation to move on.


Govt-and-politics
Northam urges Virginians to look forward amid hardship

Looking back at a chaotic year and at further hardship ahead, Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday sought to encourage hope and resiliency among Virginians, vowing to lead the state out of difficulty in his last year in office.

Northam delivered his annual State of the Commonwealth address before a nearly empty House chamber that in other times would have been filled to the brim for an occasion of pomp and ceremony.

Instead, lawmakers watched virtually to guard against COVID-19, and law enforcement closely monitored the building amid national tensions over the results of the presidential election. Northam’s remarks came just hours after the U.S. House voted to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time.

Northam paid somber tribute to the 5,000 Virginians who have died as a result of the coronavirus — including Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell — and to the two law enforcement officers who died after a violent group of insurrectionists overtook the U.S. Capitol.

“We’ve all experienced loss this year,” Northam said, adding of Chafin: “He was my friend, and I miss him.” He then led a moment of silence.

Still, Northam’s speech about the state of affairs here focused much more on the light: Virginians have begun to receive vaccines against the coronavirus, and while the rollout has left much to be desired, Northam on Wednesday vowed to continue pushing for speed.

He said the state will quickly follow federal guidance to immediately begin vaccinating people over the age of 65. Across the state, Northam vowed to match the speed of vaccinations to the supply of 110,000 doses per week.

“We’ll be moving forward with that quickly — I’ll be talking to local health directors and hospitals tomorrow about how we make this happen,” Northam said on vaccines for the elderly. “I’m counting on the people who work in our public health departments to push hard to get this done.”

In the official Republican response, Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, a former speaker of the House who is running for governor, said the administration’s vaccine distribution has been “extremely disappointing,” adding that the state has fallen behind most others in the share of vaccines distributed that it has given.

Cox also said Virginians have faced significant delays while seeking unemployment benefits.

“Virginia has to do better,” he said.

Northam sought to assure Virginians that smart financial decisions at the state level would help keep them afloat, including by increasing the number of business loans and funding for evictions and mortgage relief.

The governor reiterated his administration’s proposal to boost the evictions relief trust fund by $25 million and to direct revenues from the state’s “gray machines” — gambling consoles inside restaurants and gas stations — to the state’s small-business relief fund.

Northam also unveiled positive news for the state’s teachers: He expects that revised revenue projections released Wednesday will turn 2% bonuses for teachers in his budget proposal into permanent raises.

“We need to make this teacher bonus a raise, and make it more than 2%,” he said.

The governor also vowed to fight for additional funding for localities’ health care needs, early education programs, college financial aid and broadband expansion.

It was Northam’s second such address since Democrats captured majorities in the legislature, an electoral victory that has drastically changed Virginia’s landscape. He appeared jubilant as he described his administration’s legislative goals.

Among his goals is to pass measures he believes will address the racial and socioeconomic disparities present in the state — a topic that became a key focus of his administration after the 2019 scandal over a racist yearbook photo nearly cut short his time in office.

Among those proposals is a plan to legalize marijuana, a plan Northam says will bring hefty revenues to the state while ending the disparate criminalization of people of color for marijuana-related offenses.

Northam also highlighted efforts to reimagine Richmond’s Monument Avenue, which was home for more than a century to statues of Confederate leaders. It now mostly includes just their pedestals — aside from the remaining state-owned statue of Robert E. Lee. He also praised the state’s removal of a statue of Lee from the U.S. Capitol and the plans to replace it with one of teenage civil rights pioneer Barbara Johns.

“We are moving past the burden of our history, taking action to shape a Virginia that reflects who we are and what we value,” Northam said.

Notably, he made no mention of the monthslong protests over systemic racism that took place in Richmond last year.

Northam promised to deliver on criminal justice reform, backing automatic expungements for people who commit certain crimes and automatic restoration of voting rights for felons who have “paid their debt to society.” He is also backing ending the death penalty in Virginia.

Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, joined Cox in the formal response and criticized Democratic proposals to expand parole and to end minimum mandatory sentences.

“Placing the interests of violent criminals above those of innocent citizens who are the victims of crime isn’t just wrong, it’s unconscionable. It is evidence of an administration with misplaced priorities and misguided values,” he said.

Near the end of his remarks, Northam addressed the breaching of the U.S. Capitol after weeks of unsubstantiated claims by Trump that he, not President-elect Joe Biden, had won the November election.

“They were egged on by conspiracy theories and lies from a president who could not accept losing,” Northam said. “Inflammatory rhetoric is dangerous.”

He ended by encouraging unity across Virginia as the state and the world grapple with the COVID-19 crisis.

“We are one Virginia, and we need to keep taking care of each other,” Northam said. “I am proud of the state of our commonwealth, and the foundation we have built to get through this pandemic and recover in a way that is equitable and fair.”


Education
breaking
In Hanover, 1,261 more students request to come back to school for the second semester; most can come back, but not all

Hanover County schools Superintendent Michael Gill put it best Tuesday night when he called the school division’s choice plan, which allows parents to choose between virtual and in-person learning, a “massive jigsaw puzzle” — one with 16,346 moving parts.

School leaders told the Hanover School Board on Tuesday night that for the second semester, which begins Feb. 3, they’ve received 1,261 requests for students to come back to school from virtual learning. On the flip side, 179 students who were in school have requested to move to virtual learning.

Hanover parents were given the option to choose five-day, face-to-face or virtual learning at the start of the school year in September — Hanover was one of only a handful of school divisions statewide to offer those options — and back then, roughly 60% of the division’s 16,346 students chose face-to-face learning.

The plan was to give parents the choice again for the second semester.

The 1,261 face-to-face requests break down to 540 elementary students, 290 middle school students and 431 high school students.

School officials said that as of Tuesday night, they’ve granted about 75% of the elementary school requests, 95% of the middle school requests, and 100% of the high school requests. That’s more than 400 elementary students, about 275 middle school students and all of the 431 high school students. While there may be last-minute changes in the next week or so, those numbers are nearly set for the second semester.

All of the virtual requests have been granted. Of the 179, 142 were for high school students.

Several factors determined how many face-to-face requests would be granted at each level, Jennifer Greif, assistant superintendent for instructional leadership, said Wednesday, with one of the biggest considerations being each school’s physical limitations. Schools have to maintain at least 3 feet between students in order to comply with the state’s COVID-19 mandates.

High schools, by nature, have more flexibility because of block scheduling and rotating classes every other day. But in elementary schools, students remain in one classroom the whole day, so there’s less flexibility to add large numbers of students back into the schools.

Considering that limitation, priority was given to the school division’s most vulnerable populations, Greif said.

“We started all of our decision-making with” special education, ESL and ELL students, she said, adding that those requests were pulled first so schools could look at services needed on a student-by-student basis. “They were definitely at the forefront of our thinking.”

But there were other considerations, too. Greif shared that when decisions had to be made between requests for pre-K and kindergartners and those for upper elementary grades, for example, priority was given to younger children. Students whose grades and attendance may have suffered during the first semester in a virtual environment were also given higher priority.

Anytime choices had to be made between two students, Greif said, those decisions were made with a “student-centered lens.”

Greif said the 1,261 requests to go back to face-to-face learning were nearly on target with officials’ expectations, because by last October they were beginning to hear from parents of virtual students that they wanted to be back in school.

“There was a lot of confidence in the plan, and the numbers were looking good,” she said, adding that they had no way to know for sure, given the volatile COVID-19 landscape that changed daily. “We recognize that families and parents and students are all making decisions with a whole host of different factors in front of them.”

The second-semester changes also impact 65 teachers. In all, 19 elementary teachers are coming back to face-to-face learning, while 28 middle and 18 high school teachers are also coming back into the schools, but most will continue to teach both face-to-face and virtual classes.

In other news, Gill will present his 2021-22 proposed budget to the School Board next Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 6 p.m. The budget presentation meeting is open to the public. A public hearing on the proposed plan follows the week after on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.

Both meetings are at the School Board office, 200 Berkley St. in Ashland. They’ll also be streamed live by Zoom and the school division’s YouTube channel for those wishing to watch remotely. Visit hcps.us/about_us/school_board for more details or for links to meetings.


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Govt-and-politics
Virginia's House delegation divides on party lines in Trump impeachment vote

Virginia’s congressional delegation divided by party line on Wednesday in the historic vote to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, charging him with inciting an insurrection by supporters who stormed and ransacked the U.S. Capitol last week.

Overall, 10 Republicans joined the Democratic majority in a 232-197 vote to impeach Trump.

Virginia’s four Republican congressmen opposed the resolution. The state’s seven Democratic representatives supported it, terming it essential to remove the president for his alleged role in an insurrection that resulted in five deaths, including that of a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

“President Trump has violated his oath of office and in doing so put countless Americans at risk, endangered our Republic and threatened our national security,” said Rep. Donald McEachin, D-4th, who lives in Richmond. “He is unfit to lead the United States for even a day longer.”

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-1st, whose sprawling district includes Hanover and New Kent counties in the Richmond area, condemned the attack on the Capitol, but opposed impeaching Trump just seven days before he will leave office and be replaced by President-elect Joe Biden.

“My vote against impeachment in no way means I agree with the president’s actions and statements leading up to the storming and illegal entry of the Capitol building, but I believe impeaching the lame-duck President before the peaceful transition of power occurs will only further inflame emotions and further divide the nation,” Wittman said in a statement after the vote. “Our focus now needs to be on unifying our nation and moving forward as one, and I believe impeachment does the opposite.”

Reps. Bob Good, R-5th; Ben Cline, R-6th; and Morgan Griffith, R-9th, also opposed impeachment.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-11th, who spoke in favor of impeachment on the House floor, rejected Republican calls for unity after some in their party challenged the legitimacy of Biden’s election for more than two months, culminating in an attack on the Capitol as Congress was certifying the election results.

“Some of my friends on the other side of the aisle, including the ones who perpetrated this big lie, have called for unity,” said Connolly, chairman of the House Government Relations Subcommittee. “Well I ask, where were those calls for unity when Joe Biden won? Where were the calls for unity when a mob tore through these hallowed halls?”

Wittman voted against certifying Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania while supporting the results in Arizona. Good, Cline and Griffith voted against certification of the electoral totals in both states.

Cline said in a statement ahead of the vote that attempting to impeach Trump at the end of his term “will only further fuel the political divide among our citizens and will be detrimental to long-term efforts to unify our country.”

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, narrowly re-elected in November in a swing district that traditionally had voted Republican, called the vote for impeachment “a united response to a disgusting act of brutality and sedition.”

Spanberger, a former CIA case worker who was in the House Gallery when rioters tried to break into the chamber, said, “Inside the building, we barricaded ourselves against domestic terrorists who were there out of loyalty to one man — not loyalty to our country.”

“For the sake of national healing, the preferred outcome would have been the outright resignation of the president,” she said in a statement after the vote. “In the absence of this action, the vice president and the Cabinet should have immediately invoked the 25th amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] and protected our democracy. However, neither of these paths [was] followed.”

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-2nd, also beginning her second term representing a swing district in Hampton Roads, called Trump’s actions seditious and said, “The president has proven he is not fit to govern.”

Representatives for Northern Virginia said the insurrection at the Capitol hit close to home in their districts, home to many federal employees who work in or around the Capitol complex.

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died of injuries suffered in the attack on the Capitol, lived in the 8th District. Don Beyer, D-8th, called Trump “a clear and present danger to the United States, and a menace to the Constitution.”

Beyer urged the Senate “to remove him from office as swiftly as possible.”

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-3rd, Virginia’s longest-serving member of Congress, said the impeachment vote “reaffirms the fundamental truth that the security of our democracy is our first priority.”

“It is my hope that the Senate will convict and remove Donald Trump and we can all move forward from this dark chapter in our nation’s history,” Scott said. “I look forward to working with the incoming Biden administration to begin healing our country.”


Coverage inside

Security

U.S. Capitol is filled with members of Guard. Page A10

Riot arrests

Authorities: Va. man wore Auschwitz shirt. Page A14


Govt-and-politics
breaking
Legal marijuana sales in Virginia could start in less than 2 years under Northam’s new proposal

Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration on Wednesday unveiled legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Virginia, proposing a 21% state tax on the drug and a licensing program meant to ease entry for people harmed by the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws.

Following years of activism by civil rights groups, Northam threw his support behind legalization in November, hailing it as a step forward for racial equity and a profitable endeavor for the state, which would become the first in the South to legalize the drug.

The measure faces good odds in Virginia’s legislature, illustrating the stark changes that have come with Democrats’ sweeping control of state government. The hallmark legislation will be formally introduced by two of the most powerful Democrats in the legislature: House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Del. Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth, will also sponsor the proposal.

“Equitable marijuana legalization is an important step towards justice in the commonwealth,” Herring said. “For far too long, marijuana laws have targeted Black and brown communities and enough is enough.”

The administration’s measure comes weeks after two different state entities studied the issue at the request of the General Assembly, finding that legalizing marijuana would need to come alongside robust investments in data collection, public health and public education around substance abuse. The administration’s proposal embraced all three, in particular as it relates to youth, a key area of concern for Northam, a pediatrician.

The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday endorsed the administration’s proposal, saying it offers an “equitable and just” path to legalization. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found in November that while Black and white Virginians use marijuana at similar rates, Black residents are 3½ times more likely to face arrest.

Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Henrico, chairman of the caucus, said he was pleased to see deliberate efforts to make sure individuals harmed by the so-called war on drugs can have “ownership” in the new marketplace.

The legislation would create a licensing program for individuals and entities that fit that category, giving them preference for licenses, making them eligible for some low- and no-interest loans, waiving some fees and connecting them with business support.

The measure also includes automatic expungements for many marijuana-related offenses from criminal records.

“If we’re able to pull this off, we’ll be among the first states to make sure that the communities that have been among the most impacted — namely the Black community — will reap significant benefits,” Bagby said.

The ACLU of Virginia has strongly advocated for legalization but criticized the proposal, saying it merely “pays lip service” to achieving racial equity. The organization was still reviewing the proposal Wednesday evening, but at first glance opposed the delay of legalization until the new marketplace is set up.

“Possession of marijuana would continue to be illegal while the new legal system is being set up, so for the next two years, Black people would still be subjected to police interactions at much higher rates than white people,” ACLU of Virginia Legislative Director Ashna Khanna said.

Republicans reached Wednesday declined to comment, opting to review the full bill first.

Timetable

Marijuana sales would begin in a little less than two years, on Jan. 1, 2023, according to an outline of the legislation. As with alcohol and tobacco, purchasers would have to be at least 21 years old and present valid photo identification.

Sales would be limited to an ounce of marijuana, or 28 grams. (An average joint contains a third to a half of a gram, according to academic and federal estimates.) Products would have to be packaged in child-safe packaging with warning labels. Regulation would limit advertising to discourage marketers from attracting interest among youth.

All sales would be taxed at an overall rate of around 30%, in line with rates in Colorado and Illinois, which fall on the higher end of states with up-and-running markets. That rate is based on a 21% excise tax levied by the state, stacked on top of local sales taxes and an additional tax of up to 3% that localities could levy if they wish.

Local options

Under the Northam administration’s proposal, localities would have to opt in to allow marijuana retailers in their jurisdictions, but once they do, they could only restrict establishments from locating near a school or a child-oriented place.

Virginia can expect to reap significant financial gain from the regulated marijuana market, according to state officials. A study published in November by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found that at the 30% overall rate, Virginia could expect to haul in $564 million in new revenue over the industry’s first five years, assuming sales fall on the lower end of the spectrum. At maturity, on year five, the state could anticipate $183 million in revenue, according to JLARC.

A separate look at this question by a Northam administration work group estimates far higher receipts. It bets that in year five, the state would collect more than $230 million at the proposed rate.

How that money would be spent will likely be subject to debate. For now, the Northam administration is carving the largest slice for one of its signature priorities: expanding access to affordable preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. Forty percent of revenues — after withdrawing the cost of regulating the market — would fund that effort, which has been a key priority for first lady Pam Northam.

The next slice — 30% — would be directed to a “Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund,” which is intended to offer reparations to individuals and communities harmed by the disparate enforcement of drug laws. The funding would be administered by a governor-appointed board, which would distribute the money as scholarships, workforce development grants, and low- or no-interest loans for marijuana license applicants that meet social equity goals.

An additional 25% of revenues would fund substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, and 5% would fund broad public health programs.

Regulations

Under the administration’s proposal, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority would be in charge of setting up the regulations that would rule the market, and issuing licenses.

In a recent interview, Northam told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he had great confidence in the current head of the bureau, CEO Travis Hill, who would presumably shepherd at least the first year of planning for the new industry.

An administration official who worked closely on the legislation also said that giving the task to the Virginia ABC would be faster and cheaper for the state than creating a new agency from scratch.

Khanna, of the ACLU, said the organization planned to lobby against the Virginia ABC’s proposed role, in part because the organization says it may box out small businesses and because it is overseen by the secretary of public safety, which also oversees the state’s criminal justice system. She added they will also lobby to “guarantee that revenues will be used to redress the harm done to Black people.”

As for licensing, the proposal embraced a structure that would allow for blanket licenses for entities that want to grow, process and sell cannabis products — while also allowing for licenses for specific sections of the industry.

The varied approach would accommodate the medical marijuana industry, in which vendors are required to handle every part of the process — growth, processing and sale. Vendors that opt for that route would face extra requirements, including financial investments into social equity programs.

As of early Wednesday, one other bill had been filed to legalize marijuana, though more could follow. The measure, introduced by Del. Steve Heretick, D-Portsmouth, would set a lower tax rate at 15%; direct two-thirds of the revenues to the general fund and the rest to public education; and allow for greater local control over licensing requirements for marijuana retailers.

Expungement

Expunging the criminal records of people convicted of marijuana-related offenses has been high on the list of priorities for civil rights advocates. They argue that the consequences of the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws continue to hinder people from employment and housing opportunities.

The administration’s proposal would automatically expunge the records of people convicted of marijuana-related misdemeanors, and create a path for petition-based expungement for related felony offenses, with the exception of selling marijuana to a minor.

Possession of small amounts of marijuana in Virginia no longer carries jail time or a criminal conviction, under legislation that went into effect this summer. People found with less than an ounce of marijuana now face a $25 civil fine, and people with prior convictions of simple possession below an ounce were to have those records sealed, with some exceptions.

Rewriting the state’s criminal code to accommodate the legalization of marijuana is a behemoth task facing lawmakers. As it seeks to legalize possession and consumption of marijuana, the administration’s proposal would create new crimes, including selling marijuana without a license, and consuming marijuana while operating a vehicle or as a passenger in a moving vehicle.

As for possession, current laws hold that possession over 1 ounce of marijuana should be viewed as intent to sell. Under the administration’s proposal, people would face criminal penalties for possession of more than 5 pounds of marijuana.

The proposal would also allow for home cultivation of marijuana plants, sanctioning up to two mature plants and two immature plants for personal use, per household. Growing would have to be limited to the owner’s residence, and plants would have to be kept out of public view and secured to prevent access by children.


Coverage inside

Punishment

3 from House GOP stripped of committee spots. Page A6

K-12 schools

3 senators press for reopening in fall. Page A6

Executions

Anti-death penalty bills introduced. Page A7


Coverage inside

Vaccine in Va.

Nearly 1M doses distributed; 24% given. Page A3

No football

RPS cancels another sports season. Page B1


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