Virginia Governor proposes to move up marijuana legalization to this year

Written by on 1 April, 2021

The governor of the state of Virginia, Ralph Northam, proposed several amendments to the bill approved by legislators last month, with which he proposes to bring forward the date of legalization of recreational marijuana to July of this year, instead of waiting until January 2024, as the measure currently stipulates.

Under the governor’s proposal, adults 21 and older could legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to four cannabis plants at home starting in July. However, sales or commercial growing would not begin before then. “Our Commonwealth is committed to the legalization of marijuana in an equitable manner,” Northam said in a statement.

Some changes or amendments to the bill

Governor Ralph Northam, in addition to accelerating the legalization of cannabis for this year, is also proposing changes that promote the safeguarding of public health, is seeking amendments that would specify labor protections in the cannabis industry and begin criminal background checks.

In addition, Northam’s proposed amendments would maintain current public safety measures that prohibit smoking marijuana while driving and cannabis possession on school grounds.

In addition, he is also seeking two budget amendments, one to increase funding for a public education campaign “about the health and safety risks of marijuana,” and the other for police training to help law enforcement officers “recognize and prevent drugged driving.”

House Majority Leader Charniele Herring voiced support for Northam’s proposed changes, in a statement expressing that the amendments would “stop disparate enforcement of marijuana laws starting this summer, while focusing on public safety and educating our youth.”

Decision to accelerate legalization

Northam’s office said his decision to accelerate legalization was prompted by a state study done last year that found black Virginians were more than three times as likely to be arrested for possessing small amounts of the plant.

On the other hand, the governor’s office suggests the proposed changes could have enough votes to become law once legislators reconvene this April.

“I am grateful to advocates and legislators for their dedicated work on this important issue, and I look forward to this legislation passing next month,” said Northam.

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