Virginia Lawmakers Pass Marijuana Legalization Bills

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who in the past has supported marijuana legalization. Photo: Shutterstock

Pending Governor Ralph Northam’s signature, dispensaries could open in state beginning 2024, while legalization would start as soon as this summer

Virginia’s General Assembly voted Friday to legalize marijuana in the state, with a plan in place to open dispensaries beginning in 2024.

The Democrat-controlled Virginia Senator and House of Delegates both overwhelmingly voted in favor of the measure that could legalize simple possession of marijuana in the state as soon as this summer; weed was previously decriminalized in the state in July 2020.

The measure now awaits the signature of Governor Ralph Northam, who in the past has supported marijuana legalization in Virginia. When passed, Virginia will be the first of the Southern states to legalize weed.

When legal sales begin in Virginia in 2024, revenues will go toward pre-K and public health programs, addiction treatment and a fund to remedy the effects of the drug’s criminalization; as noted during the General Assembly, prosecution of marijuana use targeted the black communities in Virginia, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

“If you want to help marginalized communities, here is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to invest in those communities that have been decimated by the so-called war on drugs and to give us an economic leg up,” Del. Don Scott, D-Portsmouth, said prior to the vote.

“There are more deaths from legal pharmaceuticals … sold at your local CVS and Walgreens that cause way more deaths than anything that marijuana — cannabis — will do.”

House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, who sponsored the bill, tweeted Friday, “This legislation will provide long overdue justice for so many marginalized communities in Virginia.”

Polling had shown that registered voters were nearly 70 percent in favor of legal weed. When passed, Virginia will become the 16th state to fully legalize marijuana in the United States.

In addition to voting to legalize marijuana, the General Assembly also took steps toward abolishing the death penalty in Virginia.