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For many decades Virginia has sent thousands of people to jail for using or selling marijuana. All that is about to change. On Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, the General Assembly voted to make marijuana legal for manufacture, sale, and possession.
Lawmakers in the House of Delegates and Senate will now have to hash out their differences to finalize the proposed bill which will then be given to Governor Ralph Northam — for his signature. Northam has already signaled once the bill hits his desk, he will sign the legislation into law.
Once this has happened marijuana will begin to be sold in regulated stores in 2024. The tax revenue of the cannabis sales will be going to public health programs, pre-K, and addiction treatments. They also plan on using some of the funds to remedy the effects of the drug’s criminalization.
Delegate Don Scott — Democrat from Portsmouth, Virginia — has stressed that the prosecution of marijuana use disproportionately harms Virginia’s black and brown communities. Scott stated that there have been “more deaths from legal pharmaceuticals” than from “cannabis.”
He further stated that legalizing cannabis will “marginalized communities.”
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.
According to a Daily Press investigation in 2018, black Virginians were more likely to be charged with marijuana possession. These people were far more likely to be placed in jail for this type of offense. Even if it was their first time being charged with it.
The new Senate bill will now make simple possession of cannabis legal starting in July 2021. However, it is emphasized that the retail of marijuana will not start until sometime in 2024. The House of Delegates passed a similar bill earlier in the day on February 5.
Written by Sheena Robertson
The Virginian-Pilot: Marijuana will be legal in Virginia after historic vote, with dispensaries opening in 2024; by Ana Ley
Featured Image Courtesy of Don Goofy’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Victor Sassen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License