Virginia Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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Virginia legalized recreational marijuana late Wednesday night, making the state the first southern state to do so.

“It’s official – Virginia just approved historic legislation legalizing the simple possession of marijuana on July 1, 2021,” Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted Thursday. “This is a monumental step to address racial disparities in our criminal justice system and build an equitable, inclusive future for our Commonwealth.”

Both chambers of the state’s General Assembly passed the legislation back in February. Northam pressed the General Assembly to accelerate the schedule by three years so that individuals could begin having possession in July, according to Fox 5.

The General Assembly made the changes desired by Northam. The senate voted 20-20, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax breaking the tie and approving the changes, according to Fox 8.

The legislation allows adults over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and would allow limited home cultivation. (RELATED: Weed Legalized For Recreational Use In New York)

Legal retail sales won’t begin until 2024, with the legislation requiring a state agency to oversee the new market, according to Fox 8.

Revenues generated from taxes on the plant would go toward pre-K education, substance abuse treatment and other health measures. Another portion of the revenues would go toward the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, which will provide scholarships and workforce training to communities that have been disproportionately affected by drug enforcement.

Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director for the Virginia branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), celebrated the legalization in a statement, but said the group would advocate for retail sales to begin earlier.

“This is an incredible victory for Virginia. Legalization will bring an end to the thousands of low-level marijuana infractions occurring annually in the Commonwealth – ending a discriminatory practice that far too often targets Virginians who are young, poor, and people of color.”

“In the interest of public and consumer safety,” she continued, “Virginians 21 and older should be able to purchase retail cannabis products at the already operational dispensaries in 2021, not 2024.”