Virginia Becomes 16th State To Legalise Marijuana
Virginia has become the 16th US state to legalise adult recreational use of marijuana.
In a historic vote yesterday, February 27, Virginia lawmakers gave the final approval to a bill that will legalise marijuana from 2024, when retail sales of the drug will also begin.
The decision makes Virginia the first Southern US state to legalise marijuana. The bill, which was not voted for by a single Republican, was a top priority for Democrats who argued that legalisation is a necessary step to end racial inequality under current marijuana laws.
Those opposed to the bill had raised public health concerns such as youth use and impaired driving, but marijuana advocates argued that the enforcement of the current marijuana laws disproportionately affects communities of colour.
Charniele Herring, the Democratic majority leader for Virginia, said racial justice is about more than addressing penalties for simple possessions but the bill is a step in the right direction, Politico reports.
‘This, to me, is a justice bill. While it has flaws and it is not the perfect bill … I think this moves us a step in the right direction. It is about reformative justice that provides equitable and social-economic opportunity for individuals and communities which have been harmed by disproportionate policing and prosecution of cannabis,’ she said.
‘Legalising cannabis does not end systematic racism but it does remove one of the tools used in advancing systematic racism,’ she added.
Under the new legislation, possession of marijuana will be legal from January 2024 onwards. Later this year, in July the state will start setting up a marijuana regulatory agency. Adults over the age of 21 will legally be able to possess up to one ounce of the drug. Home cultivation will also be legalised but a limit of two mature and two immature plants per household will be implemented.
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