On Wednesday, Virgin lawmakers passed a law legalizing cannabis in the state. It has become the first southern state in the nation to do so. It was also one of the quickest to pass the law as New York and New Jersey had been mulling over such laws for years before they were passed recently.
In November, Governor Ralph Northam, like many of his Democratic counterparts, had publicly supported the legalization of marijuana. However, there were a few contentious issues among the state lawmakers.
In 2015, Virginia passed a law that had allowed marijuana for medical use. It had expanded that law over a period of time. Now, the law has been expanded to allow its use for recreational and non-medical purposes.
In February, after discussions and debates the Virginia House and Senate passed the bill legalizing the use of cannabis. However, the governor sends it back with a few amendments. This time, the legislature approved the amendments and Northam and the legislature were finally on the same page and the legislation has been passed.
The law states that adults who 21 and above can use and grow marijuana in about three months, in July. In 2024, Virginia is also expected to launch a legal market which will also be regulated. The state will also allow those who have been convicted for marijuana related crimes to ask for reduced penalties or for sealing of their records.
After Virginia passed its law, there are now 16 states in the U.S. and Washington DC which have legalized the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Washington DC doesn’t allow recreational sales.
A new excise tax will be levied and it will be used for various purposes including
- Education programs
- Equity initiatives
- Treatment for addicts
- Public Health Services
As is with other states those who are for the legislation of cannabis argue about the benefits legalizing marijuana will bring including decriminalization, revenues and the decrease of the illegal marketing of pot. Those who are against it say its easy availability will increase the number of consumers and cause health problems.