Virginia joins fifteen other states in the United States of America to legally allow adults to use marijuana though sales will begin in 2024. On Saturday, it became the first state in the South to pass a historic legislation in a 48-43 vote in the House and a 20-19 vote in the Senate. It was a partisan vote, without a single vote from the Republicans in either chamber.
The legislation was passed after two extensive studies on the importance of decriminalization of marijuana were conducted. One report was based on research conducted by Democratic Governor Ralph Northam’s administration while the other was based on a report from the nonpartisan Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.
Last year, the state held a special session to decriminalize marijuana in order to address criminal justice reform. Its medical marijuana program has begun. In this sessions a bill allowing the use of marijuana flower products was passed.
Lawmakers have tackled a host of issues of utmost importance including the prevention of large corporations taking over the marijuana market in terms of sheer profit rather than reform or for medical interventions and the handling of automatic expungements of offenses related to marijuana, if the legal criminal justice system lacks the technology to do so.
Some of the legal provisions of the bill allow adults over 21 to own up to 1 ounce of marijuana. Home cultivation is limited to two immature and 2 mature plants per house. Vertical integration would be allowed for micro-businesses, medical cannabis producers and industrial hemp processors.
The bill provides for 21% excise tax on marijuana. Municipalities can add 3% over existing sales taxes. Some of the revenues collected will be used in a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund. The fund will be used for scholarships and workforce development of communities who have historically been disadvantaged by drug enforcement.
The opposition has mentioned public health concerns such as youth use and impaired driving which could increase as a result of legalizing marijuana. They also say that huge giants could take over and quote Altria, a huge tobacco giant who purchased a $1.8 billion stake in Cronos group in Canada in 2018.
The “Mother of States” legislation will allow sales in 2024. Virginia is planning to set up a marijuana regulatory agency in July 2021. The legislation has also put pressure on Maryland a neighboring state. New Jersey has recently passed legislation as well.