Monday, August 15, 2022

Virginia legislature votes to legalize marijuana

Virginia State Capitol (WYDaily/ Courtesy Virginia General Assembly)
Virginia State Capitol (Courtesy Virginia General Assembly)

Legislation legalizing marijuana for adult recreational use passed both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly on Feb. 5.

Both versions of the bill would legalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana for those 21 and older, begin expunging misdemeanor marijuana-related offenses starting July 1, make provisions for eventual retail sales and create a new regulatory agency, according to the Associated Press.

Both bills would use a majority of the tax revenue from sales to fund pre-K for at-risk children.

The votes were mostly along party lines. The House version of the bill passed by a vote of 55-42, while the Senate’s passed by a 23-15 vote.

The legislation now faces reconciliation. The Senate bill allows for localities to opt-out of retail sales and requires a second vote next year to finalize the framework, meaning the General Assembly would have to vote on the bill again in 2022, which could prove problematic if Republicans reclaim the Senate.

Democrats in both the Senate and House of Delegates should have enough votes to send legalization to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk, and he has indicated he would sign it, making it likely Virginia will be the first Southern state to allow the legal sale of marijuana.

Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation decriminalizing marijuana possession, making it a civil penalty punishable by a fine of no more than $25.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have already legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use.

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