Virginia was just the first southern state to legalize adult weeds
Within a week, three US states decided to end the war on weeds. Last week New York and New Mexico signed adult cannabis legalization, and this week Virginia became the first state in the south to legalize weeds.
Virginia’s journey to legalization began in February when state lawmakers passed law to legalize the sale, possession, and use of cannabis by adults. Everyone expected Governor Ralph Northam, a longtime advocate of legalization, to sign the bill immediately, but the proposal had one major flaw. The original version of the bill would not have legalized weeds until January 1, 2024, and until that date, police officers would be free to continue locking people up for the pot.
Not ready to continue this pointless ban unchecked for another three years, Governor Northam amended the bill to move forward the start date for personal use legalization to this summer. This Wednesday, the State House of Delegates passed the revised bill by 53-44 votes, but Senate support came to an impasse with 20-20 votes. Fortunately, Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax called in to break the tie and the bill became law.
Starting July 1, 2021, adult Virginians will be allowed to use and own up to one ounce of pot. Adults can also grow their own weeds, provided they are labeled and inaccessible to children and the general public. The new version of the bill also includes a provision to expedite the automatic evictions of those with previous low-level cannabis convictions.
“We made history as the first state in the south to legalize the simple possession of marijuana,” Governor Northam said in a statement. “I am delighted that the General Assembly has accepted my proposal to make this change on July 1, 2021, almost three years ahead of schedule. Marijuana laws are specifically designed to target color communities, and black Virginians are disproportionately likely to be stopped, charged, and convicted. Today, Virginia has taken a critical step to correct these mistakes and do justice to those harmed by decades of over-criminalization. “
Virginia police will soon be prevented from beating people for minor pot ownership, but they will be able to arrest people for selling weeds for some time. The original bill allows state cannabis regulators to draft their retail regulations by July 1, 2024. Sales cannot begin until these provisions are in effect. The revised invoice does not change anything in this data, so that the legal sales are still more than three years away.
The governor also amended the state’s current budget law to give state police officers an additional $ 1 million in additional training on how to identify stoned drivers. Another $ 1 million has been allocated to “marijuana prevention and awareness programs and public health campaigns,” reports Marihuana Moment. These programs are specifically aimed at those under the age of 21.
Though legal sales are still a long way off, cannabis advocates are celebrating the governor’s decision to bring the date forward for personal use legalization. “This is an incredible win for Virginia,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, in a statement.
“Legalization will put an end to the thousands of low-level marijuana violations that occur annually in the Commonwealth. This will end a discriminatory practice that too often targets young, poor and colored Virginians are ready for legalization this year and are sending over 8,800 emails in support of these measures. “