Delegate considering run for Virginia governor believes marijuana legalization should fund reparations

Virginia News

FILE – This Monday Feb. 12, 2018 file photo shows Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, as he looks over legislation during the House session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Lee J. Carter, a state delegate from Prince William County who is considering a run for Virginia governor next year, proposed Monday that the commonwealth use all future tax revenue from legal marijuana sales to fund reparations for Black and Indigenous communities.

The plan from Del. Carter (D-Manassas), a self-described socialist who won a seat in the Virginia House in 2017, comes after a report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) found that “taxing commercial marijuana sales would eventually produce substantial revenue.”

The commission, which was tasked with researching the impact of legalization after cannabis was decriminalized in the commonwealth, wrote that it could generate $154-$308 million in tax revenue by the fifth year of sales.

Gov. Ralph Northam expressed support for legalization as the report was made public on Nov. 16, saying “legalizing marijuana will happen in Virginia.” In an interview with 8News, Carter said his proposal is a necessary step that should not have to wait to be fulfilled.

“Throughout history, there has always been a class of people, largely defined by race, put in an economic disadvantage,” he said, citing the country’s treatment of Native Americans, the horrors of slavery and the Jim Crow era that followed. “If we want an equal society, we have to act to bring those people where they would have been if those disadvantages didn’t exist.”

Carter, who called for a commission to be established to figure out which initiatives should be funded, noted the potential new revenue would give Virginia an opportunity to provide reparations without having to take money already allocated by the General Assembly.

“Nobody is going to lose out on anything,” the delegate representing Manassas told 8News. “Virginia can set a new model for the rest of the states and spur action from the federal government. We can stop waiting for the national conversation to change and take the first step.”

While he didn’t share a specific plan for the reparations, stating that the commission would be responsible for those decisions, Carter explained that his proposal for reparations should be an “all the above” initiative and not just bolster education funding, as Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney had suggested in August.

“This isn’t just a single thing, so the solution can’t be,” Carter said.

When asked about a run for governor in 2021, Carter shared he is “strongly considering” it but that he will base his decision on how he feels about the issues the rest of the field focuses on. If he announces a run, the Democratic delegate would join Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Del. Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (Prince William) and state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond) in the primary.

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