A potential whirlwind of cannabis reforms is brewing in Virginia, where state lawmakers introduced two separate adult-use legalization bills this week while Gov. Ralph Northam (D) repeated his endorsement for decriminalizing the plant in his State of the Commonwealth speech on Wednesday night.
Pending legalization bills
Virginia’s legislative session officially convened on Wednesday, January 9 and there are already several bills aimed at major cannabis reforms.
House Bill 2371, introduced on Tuesday by Virginia Del. Steve Heretick (D), aims to fully legalize and regulate the consumption and distribution of cannabis for adults who are 21 or older. The bill would grant cannabis licensing rights to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“The time has come for adults to have the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not to consume marijuana in the privacy of their homes,” Del. Heretick said in a press release on Tuesday.
And shoutout to @SteveHeretick for his own legalization bill that takes a slightly different approach to the same end result!
— Lee J. Carter (@carterforva) January 9, 2019
Governor calls for decriminalizing
During his election campaign, Gov. Northam repeatedly expressed support for decriminalizing cannabis. He reiterated his support for ending cannabis prohibition last night towards the end of his annual State of the Commonwealth address.
“We shouldn’t use valuable law enforcement time, or costly prison space, on laws that don’t enhance public safety,” Northam said. “So I’m proposing that we decriminalize simple possession of marijuana.”
“Current law imposes a maximum 30 days in jail for a first offense of marijuana possession. Making simple possession a civil penalty will ease overcrowding in our jails and prisons and free up our law enforcement and court resources for offenses that are a true threat to public safety.” — Gov. Ralph Northam
Currently, several decriminalization bills are pending in the state legislature. Similar bills were introduced last year but failed to come to any fruition.
The 2019 Virginia legislative session is scheduled to last 45 days, ending on February 23.