On Wednesday (April 7), Virginia made a bold move and became the first southern state to legalize marijuana after state lawmakers approved an amended bill. The proposed change came from Governor Ralph Northam who pushed up the timeline for the new law to be put in place by about three years, according to The Huffington Post.
Under the new law, Virginia residents will be able to possess small amounts of marijuana and grow cannabis plants. Beginning July 1, adults 21 years or older will legally be allowed to possess one ounce of cannabis without the intent to distribute. Adults can also have up to four cannabis plants per household starting July 1, though public use will still be illegal.
“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,” House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said to get fellow state lawmakers on board with approving Gov. Northam’s changes.
Advocates in racial justice have applauded the amended timeline as states across the country who’ve also legalized marijuana work in tandem to address racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests.
The law will eventually move the state closer to retail sales of cannabis as it includes provisions for the establishment of a state agency to manage marijuana sales and market. Retail sales and regulations are set to begin January 1, 2024.
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