Lawmakers in Virginia have reached a deal to make the state the 16th in the nation and the first in the south to legalize recreational marijuana use. But the compromise bill is receiving blow back from some legalization advocates who say it falls short of racial justice aims.
Lawmakers in both the House and Senate passed the bill in a Saturday legislative session in a party line vote of 48 to 43 in the House and 20 to 19 in the Senate. The legislation would legalize the use of cannabis by people over the age of 21 starting in 2024, when retail markets would be established. The law would also allow possession of up to an ounce by anyone over 21 and establishes a state agency to oversee regulation of the cannabis market.
Specifics of the regulations were punted until next year, when they’ll be decided by the legislature.
The bill calls for 30% of marijuana tax revenue to go to a fund aimed at communities historically over-policed for marijuana-related crimes. Under the legislation, people under the age of 21 would face a $25 civil penalty and have to undergo treatment.
Marijuana legalization had been a priority for Democrats in the state, who have cited disparities in how people of color are penalized for possession and use. Lawmakers had already decriminalized possession of smaller amounts last year.
Support comes from
Gov. Ralph Northam — who announced his intentions to legalize marijuana use late last year — is expected to sign the measure into law.
“Virginia just took a major step towards legalizing marijuana in our commonwealth,” Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky said, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
But the compromise legislation has drawn criticism from some Democratic lawmakers and advocates, who have taken issue with key provisions of the