Virginia lawmakers are voting for marijuana legalization in 2024

In a vote held on Saturday, Virginia lawmakers passed a bill that should legalize the recreational use and sale of marijuana for adults and go into effect in early 2024.

Under the proposed bill, the legal possession limit for marijuana will be 1 ounce (28.3 grams) and the sale of cannabis will be taxed at a tax rate of 30%. The taxed money will go to a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund to help communities over-police for drug-related crimes.

This would make Virginia the first southern state to legalize recreational marijuana, joining the 15 other states and the District of Columbia that have done the same.

Once passed by the legislature, the bill must bring the signature of Governor Ralph Northam into effect.

“There is still a lot of work to be done, but this bill will help reinvest in our communities and reduce inequalities in our criminal justice system,” said Alena Yarmosky, spokeswoman for Northam.

The senators who endorsed the bill hoped to have legalized marijuana possession by the end of the year, but House Democrats argued that a hasty legalization without a regulated legal market would have encouraged Virginians to opt for black market purchase instead decide.

State Democrats hope to continue negotiating with Governor Northam to introduce legislative changes, including changing an earlier legalization date.

Racial Justice and Marijuana Legalization

While the legalization bill was well received in Virginia governing bodies, the Virginia American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was one of the votes against the bill.

One of the ACLU’s criticisms was how little the proposed bill will do to address the racial differences caused by the war on drugs.

“Today the Virginia General Assembly did not legalize marijuana for racial justice. Legislators paid lip service to communities that have suffered decades of damage from the racist war on drugs. Legislation fails to reform justly and is holding back justice, ”the Virginia ACLU tweeted.

Today the Virginia General Assembly did not legalize marijuana for racial justice. Legislators paid lip service to communities that have suffered decades of damage from the racist war on drugs. Legislation fails to reform justly and delays justice. https://t.co/Z4yoFPzbBd

– the ACLU of Virginia (@ACLUVA) February 28, 2021

The House Democrats have denied this claim, arguing that it is a step in the right direction to contain racial injustice.

Majority House Chairman Charniele Herring (D) said the bill will move Virginia in a direction to dismantle and remove these institutional barriers, as well as over-policing, over-arrest and over-condemnation of African Americans who do not use marijuana at a higher rate than ours white colleagues. “

Additional resources:

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