RICHMOND, Va. (WSET) — On Wednesday, Virginia voted to move up the legalization date of recreational marijuana in Virginia to July 1, 2021.
In February 2021, both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use. According to NORML, as of July 1, 2020, “possession of authorized medical cannabis products by those registered to participate in the state’s program are provided explicit statutory legal protection.”
Initially, the legalization date was set for January 1, 2024. However, Gov. Ralph Northam added amendments to existing bills to fast-track the legalization. When proposing the accelerated timeline, Northam said that many Virginians would be on board with speeding up the legalization process.
“While not everybody is in favor of moving this forward, the great majority of Virginians are and that’s what this is about,” Northam said. “When you’re in public service, you listen to Virginians and then move their thoughts and initiatives forward.
After Wednesday’s legislative approval of Gov. Northam’s amendments to Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312, Virginia became the first Southern state to legalize the possession and use of marijuana by adults.
Despite the technical legalization of marijuana this summer, there are some caveats to the legislation that Virginians should be aware of.
While as of July 1, adults in Virginia can possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to four marijuana plants per household, the sale of marijuana in the state is still delayed until 2024, according to NORML. According to a press release from the organization, regulators still have until July 1, 2024, to set forth provisions on licensing commercial production and sales.
Based on the legislation, Virginians can grow marijuana, gift it in private or have an ounce or less in their possession if they’re over the age of 21. However, they cannot sell it or purchase it and driving with it is illegal.
As of now, the bill has left many unknowns for localities, according to some local lawmakers. The General Assembly will come back in next year’s session to vote on the rules for growing and selling marijuana and to vote on how they will enforce the law.
Virginia lawmakers voted on party lines on the amendments, resulting in differing opinions between the two parties. Some Republicans have said that Virginia should have waited for another year or two to get the legislation right and take issues out.
Democrats from the area, on the other side of the aisle, say that legalizing marijuana this summer is a step in the right direction as Virginians will no longer be treated as criminals if they are in possession.