You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

Gov. Ralph Northam wants to legalize marijuana on July 1

  • Updated
  • 0
marijuana

The marijuana plant

Gov. Ralph Northam is proposing to accelerate the legalization of simple possession of marijuana in Virginia to July 1, 2021, nearly three years sooner than previously planned.  

Under the proposal, Virginians would be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to four plants in their homes beginning this summer. Northam also announced proposed changes to advance public health protections, set clear expectations for labor protections in the cannabis industry and begin to seal criminal records for marijuana possession.

“Our commonwealth is committed to legalizing marijuana in an equitable way,” Northam said in a Wednesday morning press release. “Virginia will become the 15th state to legalize marijuana—and these changes will ensure we do it with a focus on public safety, public health and social justice.”

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation in February that would legalize simple possession of marijuana beginning July 1, 2024. Lawmakers will consider Northam’s amendments to the bill when they reconvene next week on Wednesday, April 7. 

Del. Lamont Bagby, chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, said he is “pleased with the improvements the Governor has proposed.” 

“We are doing everything possible to repair and redress the harm done to communities of color most impacted by marijuana criminalization—the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus stands in support of the Governor’s amendments because justice must not be delayed,” Bagby, D-74th, said in a statement.

A 2020 report of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, or JLARC, found that Black Virginians were more than three times as likely to be arrested for simple possession of marijuana. 

Following the report, Virginia “decriminalized” simple possession of marijuana beginning July 1, 2020, making it punishable with a $25 fine. But data from Virginia courts showed Black Virginians still made up a disproportionate number of those fined for marijuana possession. 

Northam said this fact drove his proposal to advance legalization by three years.

In Prince William County, court data shows 129 people were ticketed for marijuana possession between July 1, 2020, and Jan. 11, 2021. Of those, 41% were African American although African Americans make up only 20% of Prince William’s total population. 

Additionally, Northam’s proposed amendments to the legislation include funding for a public awareness campaign on the health and safety risks of marijuana and funding to help law enforcement officers recognize and prevent drugged driving. 

Those changes to the bill garnered bipartisan support for legalization, including from Northern Virginia region Republican state Sens. Richard Stuart, R-28th, and Jill Vogel, R-27th, both of whom were quoted in Northam’s press rel.

“It’s important that as we take our time to thoughtfully stand up this industry, we also provide clarity and don’t confuse Virginians by punishing them for something that will now be legal,” Vogel said. “These amendments do just that.”

Reach Daniel Berti at dberti@fauquier.com

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.
0
0
0
0
0

2020 was a year marked by hardships and challenges, but the Prince William community has proven resilient. The Prince William Times is honored to serve as your community companion. To say thank you for your continued support, we’d like to offer all our subscribers -- new or returning --

4 WEEKS FREE DIGITAL AND PRINT ACCESS.

We understand the importance of working to keep our community strong and connected. As we move forward together into 2021, it will take commitment, communication, creativity, and a strong connection with those who are most affected by the stories we cover.

We are dedicated to providing the reliable, local journalism you have come to expect. We are committed to serving you with renewed energy and growing resources. Let the Prince William Times be your community companion throughout 2021, and for many years to come.

Subscribe

Recommended for you

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Page Title

The future of Prince William Times now depends on community support. Your donation will help us continue to improve our journalism through in-depth local news coverage and expanded reader engagement.

Keeping you connected to the Community. Find or Submit your local event here..

Sign Up For Newsletters