Virginia lawmakers yesterday approved the governor’s amendments to the state’s cannabis reform bill, setting the launch date for legalization on July 1, 2021. Under the version of the bill first approved by lawmakers last month, the legalization rules were only set to begin in 2024.
In late March, following criticisms that a multi-year delay didn’t go far enough in addressing the disproportionate arrests of Black Virginians and other people of color, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) proposed speeding up the launch date to July 1 of this year. Notably, the new date marks only the legalization of adult cannabis possession (up to one ounce), and home growing (up to four plants) — regulated sales are still not expected until July 2024.
Following the announcement, NORML Development Director and Virginia NORML Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini called the passage an “incredible victory.”
“Legalization will bring an end to the thousands of low-level marijuana infractions occurring annually in the Commonwealth — ending a discriminatory practice that far too often targets Virginians who are young, poor, and people of color.” — Pedini, in a press release
Virginia’s legalization proposal will include priority licensing for social equity applicants, though the rules for that system and other market regulations are up for review in the General Assembly next year.
Virginia is the first state in the South to legalize adult-use cannabis (although Washington, D.C. approved its legalization law in 2014). Polling data found that 68 percent of registered Virginia voters — including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans — are in favor of legalizing cannabis.
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