Virginia legislators have approved a bill that will see the sale and use of recreational marijuana for adults in 2024.
Virginia has joined the growing list of U.S. states that have legalized cannabis, making it the 16th state to do so…almost.
The bill which has been approved by both the House and Senate would legalize the use and sale of recreational cannabis by adults, but not until 2024.
Under the passed legislation, adults will be allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana as of the first of January, 2024, with a regulated, legal marijuana market coming into effect on the same day.
The legalization effort follows the decriminalization of cannabis in Virginia last year, which reduced the penalty for marijuana possession to a maximum fine of $25.
As we've discussed previously, decriminalization often precedes cannabis legalization, and so in this instance, Virginia's legalization shouldn't come as much of a surprise to those paying attention to the industry.
The House passed the marijuana legalization effort in a 48-43 vote, and the Senate, more narrowly passed it with a 20-19 vote. However, the bill did not receive bipartisan support, as zero Republicans supported the effort.
The Democratic majority leader and sponsor of the bill Del. Charniel Herring stated that "this, to me, is a justice bill. While it has flaws and it is not the perfect bill … I think this moves us a step in the right direction."
Another sponsor of the bill, Democratic state Senator Adam Ebbin stated that Virginia is "on the path to an equitable law allowing for adults to not be penalized for using cannabis."
Some critics have argued that Virginia should make recreational cannabis possession legal immediately as opposed to waiting three years, however, sponsors of the bill have argued that without a solid framework for a legal marijuana market, this would only empower the illicit market further.
Additionally, criticism has come from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia, who has argued that the bill doesn't go far enough to redress the racial origins of the War on Drugs and the subsequently disproportionate impact that cannabis prohibition has had on minorities.
"The Virginia General Assembly failed to legalize marijuana for racial justice. Lawmakers paid lip service to the communities that have suffered decades of harm caused by the racist War on Drugs with legislation that falls short of equitable reform and delays justice," said the ACLU in a statement.
In contrast, New Jersey has enacted corrective measures after legalizing cannabis several days ago, by allocating a portion of the taxes raised on marijuana sales to communities of color.
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