Virginia Governor, Ralph Northam says that he supports legalization amid a new study concluding how it can benefit the state.
Marijuana legalization in Virginia could be closer than you think. Earlier this week, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, revealed plans to legalize marijuana. The legislation proposal will occur when the General Assembly convenes in January 2021.
According to the Virginia Mercury, Northam says that "we are going to move forward with legalizing marijuana in Virginia".
While medical marijuana in the state is legal, it's restrictive. The flower as well as any smokable products are still illegal. Meanwhile, the state decriminalized marijuana earlier this year. As of July 1st 2020, the maximum penalty for possessing up to one ounce of marijuana is now reduced to a $25 fine.
The Governor's support coincides with the release of the Joint Legislative Audit & Commission study. The study concludes that marijuana sales and tax could generate upwards of $300 million per year after 5 years of operation. Additionally, the study predicts that legalization can generate between 11,000 – 18,000 jobs once a regulated system is established.
Notably, legalization will likely lower arrest and incaration rates for marijuana-related offences by up to 84%. This statistic is contingent on decriminalization laws that passed earlier this year. Subsequently, this is also likely to address the disproportionality of marijuana-related offences.
According to the study, between 2019 – 2020, Black Virginians were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession that white individuals. Social equity and social justice initiatives that feed tax revenue into community-based programs can help bridge the gap between racial discrepancies in the judicial system.
Northam believes that undoing the harm that marijuana laws have induced in the judicial system can subsequently break its stigma by re-investment in local communities and social justice.
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 records.Ralph Northam – Virginia Governor
If legalization occurs, Northam reiterates that it will be a lengthy process. It will likely take up to two and a half years to implement a commercially regulated system. "It's not going to happen overnight," says Northam.
The study did not recommend marijuana legalization or not. Instead, it prompted leaders to consider the implications of legalization in Virginia.
If these implications are considered, Virginia has the success of its fellow states that are benefiting from legalization. Now that five additional states are now legalized, the road to legalization is becoming more of a reality.
In doing so, Virginia may be the first Southern state to forge a path towards adult-use.
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