Virginia is now the 16th state to legalize cannabis for adult use and the fourth state to do so by passing a bill through its legislature instead of going to the electorate. On Wednesday, Virginia lawmakers approved a bill that legal, regulate, and tax the sale of cannabis for adults ages 21 and older. It will likely be two more years before the state sees retail sales.
“Virginia lawmakers are proving that it is possible to work quickly to get laws passed that not only legalize cannabis but also eliminate the disproportionate harm caused by decades of prohibition,” said Steve Hawkins, executive director of MPP . “Virginia is just the youngest state to end the cannabis ban and replace it with sensible legalization and regulation for adults 21 and older. MPP is proud to have played a major role in three of the four states that legislators voted to legalize cannabis – Vermont, Illinois and now Virginia. “Newly released national poll data shows that 68% of registered voters in Virginia, including the majority of Democrats and Republicans, support legalizing adult marijuana.
MPP said that in addition to legalizing cannabis for adults aged 21 and over, the law will create a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund that will be used to support individuals, families and communities disproportionately affected by the enforcement of cannabis laws. Legal possession and personal cultivation will begin on July 1, 2021.
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“It is encouraging to see lawmakers in so many states accepting regulation as an alternative to a failed ban policy,” said Matt Simon, senior legislative analyst at MPP. “Virginia is the first state in the south to legalize cannabis, and we can be sure that others will follow as public support continues to grow.”
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Jenn Michelle Pedini, Development Director of NORML, who also serves as Executive Director of Virginia NORML said, “This is an incredible win for Virginia. Legalization will put an end to the thousands of low-level marijuana violations that occur annually in the Commonwealth – ending a discriminatory practice far too often directed against young, poor, and colored Virginians. “
Size of the market
A state-commissioned report states: “Depending on demand and the tax rate chosen, commercial marijuana could produce $ 31 to 62 million in its first full year of sales, depending on the state tax rate chosen (Figure). By its fifth year of sales, commercial marijuana could generate tax revenues of $ 154 million to $ 308 million. If the state sets marijuana sales tax at 25%, the estimated net tax revenue after operating expenses is $ 177-300 million ($ 147-250 million if the marijuana sales tax rate is set at 20%). The report also states that the Virginia marijuana industry could ultimately be responsible for creating between 11,000 and more than 18,000 jobs (0.3-0.5% of the state workforce).
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“The Virginia Alcohol Board’s regulatory agency could need $ 7 to 9 million annually to hire about 85 to 105 people. Starting a new agency could cost $ 9 to 12 million a year to hire around 110 to 140 people. VABC would also be able to implement its new tasks faster than a new agency. “
Activists celebrate a victory
“It’s a great day for justice in the Commonwealth,” added Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “Virginia is now the first state in the south to legalize recreational marijuana use, and I am so proud to have passed this monumental piece of legislation. I am always grateful for NORML’s commitment and advocacy on this topic. To get Virginia to this day it would not have been possible without their hard work and dedication to the cause. “
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“The passage of SB1406 brings to an end the years of struggle to reform our broken and outdated marijuana laws and begins deliberate steps to undo the harms of the failed ban,” said Senator Adam Ebbin. “I am grateful to NORML, the Governor, and my colleagues for getting this bill in motion over the past four months, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to create a regulated, equity-focused market for Adults create the years to come. “
Pedini added, “The Virginians were very confident that they were ready to legalize this year and sent over 8,800 emails to support these efforts.”
This article originally appeared in the Green Market Report and was republished with permission.