Your turn — New alert system, alcohol, marijuana laws take effect

Published 12:06 pm Saturday, July 16, 2022

Continuing from last week’s newsletter, I wanted to update constituents on more legislation that passed the 2022 session and is law in the Commonwealth as of July 1.

MARCUS ALERT SYSTEM

Marcus alert system; participation. (HB1191/SB361) — Allows smaller localities to opt out of the “Marcus Alert” law, a measure passed in 2020 that aimed to improve the response to mental and behavioral health emergencies.

The law set out to have localities implement a system requiring mental health professionals to join law enforcement when responding to incidents where people were experiencing a mental health crisis.

It was agreed to amend the law this year to give localities with populations under 40,000 an opt-out option, citing cost concerns and a shortage of behavioral health workers in smaller localities. Of Virginia’s 133 localities, 89 have fewer than 40,000 residents.

ALCOHOL LAWS

Alcoholic beverage control; delivery of alcoholic beverages; third-party delivery license; container. (HB426/ SB254) — Creates a third-party license that allows the holder to deliver alcoholic beverages bought from businesses with licenses from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority.

Casino gaming; sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in casino gaming establishments; casino employees; wagers, accounting, and games (HB455/SB519) — Creates a new mixed beverage casino license for on-site consumption during all hours of operation and allowing a licensee to give gifts of alcoholic beverages to customers, establishing loyalty or reward programs.

Alcoholic beverage control; transportation of alcoholic beverages. (HB325) — Increases from one gallon to three gallons the number of alcoholic beverages that a person may transport into the Commonwealth and consolidates current law regarding the transportation of alcoholic beverages into or within the Commonwealth.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Pharmaceutical processors (HB933/SB671) — Amends the definition of “cannabis oil” by removing the requirement that only oil from industrial hemp be used in the formulation of cannabis oil. The bill removes the Board of Pharmacy patient registration requirement for medical cannabis, but maintains the requirement that patients obtain written certification from a health care provider for medical cannabis.

The change will allow medical cannabis patients to buy marijuana products from dispensaries after receiving a certificate from a registered practitioner. On top of letting them avoid waiting for a license from the board, a process that can take months, the law will also allow patients to not have to pay a $50 application fee.

SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL

Civil action for the dissemination of sexually explicit visual material to another (SB493) — Provides that any person 18 years of age or older who knowingly transmits an intimate image, as defined in the bill, by computer or other electronic means to the computer or electronic communication device of another person 18 years of age or older when such other person has not consented to the use of his computer or electronic communication device for the receipt of such material or has expressly forbidden the receipt of such material shall be considered a trespass and shall be liable to the recipient of the intimate image for actual damages or $500, whichever is greater, in addition to reasonable attorney fees and cost.

BROADBAND FUNDS

The United Treasury Department announced that Virginia is one of four states that will be receiving funds to expand access to high-speed Internet service in rural areas under the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund. The Commonwealth will be getting $219 million.

The funding will expand broadband access in an estimated 76,873 locations. Around 28% of Virginia’s localities do not have access to high-quality broadband, which has an impact on the Commonwealth’s farmers and rural population.

Local governments that are in partnership with Internet service providers can apply for funding through a grant program run by the Virginia Telecommunication Initiative.

MENTAL HEALTH

Starting July 16, Virginians can call or text 988 to connect with trained counselors that are part of the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network. The current phone number (1-800-273-8255) will remain available, but stakeholders hope the three-digit code will make assistance more accessible with their goal to answer 95 percent of calls from Virginia phone numbers within 20 seconds.

CrisisLink runs one of two centers serving the commonwealth. Out-of-state numbers will not be routed to Virginia-based centers initially, as that will require additional federal approval, but those in need of additional services will eventually be put in touch with in-state providers.

Most 988 calls can be resolved over the phone, but some will require more intensive, in-person services. The state’s mobile crisis response is in the very early stages, meaning law enforcement will likely continue to play a role in the most serious mental health calls for the foreseeable future.

DEL. C. MATTHEW FARISS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.