Marijuana: Virginia lawmakers hold OK from July 1

The new law, which will take effect July 1, allows anyone in the state 21 or older to own up to 1 ounce of marijuana. The law also “amends several other criminal sanctions related to marijuana, and restricts the dissemination of criminal record information related to certain marijuana offenses,” said a summary posted on the legislature’s website.
“Virginia led and made history again today,” said Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who cast the casting vote in the Senate. said in a tweet

“I was proud to cast the binding vote to legalize marijuana and bring the long-awaited justice, fairness, equality and opportunity to the people of our great Commonwealth.”

The bill was originally passed in late February, but Democratic Governor Ralph Northam sent it back to the legislature with a series of revisions, including a proposal to speed up the timeline of its enactment to July instead of 2024.

“I am pleased that the General Assembly has accepted my proposal to make this change on July 1, 2021, almost three years ahead of schedule,” Northam said in a statement Wednesday.

Marijuana laws are explicitly designed to target communities of color, and black Virginians are disproportionately likely to be stopped, charged and convicted. Today, Virginia has taken a critical step to rectify these abuses and restore justice to those who have been harmed by decades of over-criminalization. ”

Still, the measure met fierce opposition from state GOP lawmakers on Wednesday, including Del. Chris Head, who called it a “train wreck” during a virtual speech on the House floor.

“If this policy change is to be made, it has to be done with caution, and I understand the tremendous pressure on the majority party to make this change now. I understand that opposition to immediate legislation and legalization will anger many of your constituents. Understand that taking the time to do this right may even lead to accusations of racism, ”he said.

‘But we have to do this right. And doing it right takes time. ‘

Proponents of legalization have long praised for rectifying past criminal law abuses, eliminating illegal market activity, and generating additional tax revenue when pushing for overhaul of the state’s cannabis laws.

“Talk about economics and jobs at the end of the day,” Jessica Billingsley, CEO of Akerna, which creates regulatory compliance software that allows states to track cannabis sales from seed to sale, previously told CNN.

“I truly believe that we will see a very meaningful and important movement coming out of this as states and governors look for a way to strengthen their economies.”

Sales of cannabis in states that have legalized the plant for medical and recreational purposes totaled about $ 15 billion in 2019 and are expected to exceed $ 30 billion by 2024, according to data from BDS Analytics, which tracks pharmacy sales. .

CNN’s Alicia Wallace contributed to this report.