The Virginia house of delegates and senate have approved governor Ralph Northam’s amended versions of bills presented by lawmakers from both houses seeking to legalize marijuana use by adults.
One of the most notable amendments is a revision of the timeline to allow for possession and cultivation of marijuana to June 1st this year rather than the earlier proposed date of January 1st, 2024. The reforms suggest that the cultivation of marijuana be hidden from plain view and that the plants would have proper identification. Under the amendment, individuals under the age of 21 are not eligible for the possession and cultivation of marijuana.
The legislators also accepted the Governor’s request to adopt an amendment to expedite automatic expungements for individuals previously convicted of marijuana possession. Governor Ralph stated how pleased he was with Virginia being the first state to legalize marijuana in the South.
Also, the governor’s amendment calls for funding of public education on the health and safety risks of marijuana and the training of law enforcers to prevent driving under the influence.
The governor’s revised amendment also seeks to empower regulators with the authority to revoke a company license for interfering with union organizing efforts, failure to pay prevailing wage as per the United States Department of Labor or to classify over ten percent of employees as independent contractors.
The advocates expressed their pleasure in the governor’s reforms but asked for more from him. Virginia NORML Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini termed the move an incredible victory that would end discrimination of the young, poor, and people of color in Virginia. House majority leader Charneile Hering, the lead sponsor of the legalization bill in her chamber was ecstatic about the fruition of the efforts. The legalization of marijuana enjoys wide support in Virginia with a February poll indicating that over two-thirds of adults in the commonwealth supported the legalization.