Virginia Votes To Legalise Marijuana Possession From This Summer
Virginia has voted to legalise marijuana possession, making it the first southern state to do so.
The law is expected to come into play on July 1 of this year, nearly four years earlier than the initial date outlined in the bill.
Governor Ralph Northam brought the legalisation of the possession of marijuana forward after sending back the bill with his revisions. The bill had originally been passed in February, and yesterday, April 7, Northam’s amendments were approved and passed.
It’s believed the reasoning behind Northam bringing it forward is due to a study conducted in the state last year that showed Black citizens were more than three times as likely to be arrested for simple marijuana possession.
He said in a statement yesterday, as per CNN:
Marijuana laws were explicitly designed to target communities of colour, and Black Virginians are disproportionately likely to be stopped, charged, and convicted. Today [April 7], Virginia took a critical step to right these wrongs and restore justice to those harmed by decades of over-criminalization.
While those aged 21 and over will soon be able to legally possess one ounce of the drug as of this summer, retail sales of marijuana aren’t set to begin until 2024.
In addition to this, the bill outlines that one household can grow up to four marijuana plants, while public use will still be prohibited.
Prior to yesterday’s vote, House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said:
The time has come for our state to legalize marijuana. The amendments ensure that while we’re doing the complicated work of standing up a commercial market, we aren’t delaying immediate reforms that will make our Commonwealth more equitable for all Virginians.
The bill is yet to be officially signed by Governor Northam, but he’s expected to sign it ‘as soon as it lands of his desk’, Complex reports.
In light of the vote, which saw 53–44 vote to approve Northam’s amendments, the Governor wrote on Twitter, ‘It’s official – Virginia just approved historic legislation legalizing the simple possession of marijuana on July 1, 2021.’
‘This is a monumental step to address racial disparities in our criminal justice system and build an equitable, inclusive future for our Commonwealth,’ he continued.
In response to Northam’s post, Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax said the state had ‘made history once again’.
He continued, ‘I was proud to cast the tie-breaking vote to legalize marijuana and bring long overdue justice, fairness, equity and opportunity to the people of our great Commonwealth.’
Virginia joins 15 other states in legalising marijuana.
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