Six months after approving decriminalization, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced plans on November 16th to introduce adult-use cannabis legalization to the state’s General Assembly this January.
The time has come to legalize marijuana in our Commonwealth, and Virginia will get this right.https://t.co/cmfqiAhW56
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) November 16, 2020
According to the statement on the Governor’s website, any legalization legislation needs to address the following five principles:
- Social, racial, and economic equity
- Public health
- Protections for young people
- Upholding the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act
- Data collection
The announcement comes in light of a recent study conducted by the Virginia General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, which explored the potential impact of legalization throughout the state of Virginia.
While it did not out-right recommend legalization, the study shed light on aspects of the industry ranging from economic benefits to public health.
The study found that legalization would not only reduce cannabis arrests by 84%, but it would generate more than $300 million per year in tax revenue by the fifth year of operations.
Most importantly, the legislation highlights the need for policymakers to promote social equity, and account for the highly disproportionate enforcement of drug laws on Black Virginias.
“Marijuana Laws Have Been Based Originally in Discrimination”
Though more than 10 states throughout the nation have legalized adult-use cannabis, issues regarding social equity continue to plague the industry.
In New Jersey, for example, where voters approved a cannabis legalization bill earlier this month, lawmakers pulled the bill after criticism arose over its lack of benefits for those most impacted by the War on Drugs.
And while Gov. Northam may have expressed disapproval for cannabis use back in January, the dire need for equity has altered the former physician’s beliefs.
“We are going to move forward with legalizing marijuana in Virginia,” he stated in an interview with The Virginia Mercury. “Marijuana laws have been based originally in discrimination and undoing these harms means things like social equity licenses, access to capital, community reinvestment and sealing or expunging people’s prior record.”
While the process will certainly be lengthy, House Majority Leader, Charniele Herring, a Democrat, said there is a “good chance” it could happen. Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, also a Democrat, put the odds at “slightly better than 50-50,” reports Marijuana Moment.