States to Watch in 2021: Virginia

In advance of the 2021 legislative sessions, NORML will be providing a more detailed break down of legislative efforts in various states across the nation that are poised to enact significant marijuana reforms next year. This is the latest in a series of blogs examining where state-specific reform efforts stand.

Democratic Governor Ralph Northam publicly announced his support for adult-use legalization, stating: “It’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia. Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to be the first state in the South to take this step, and we will lead with a focus on equity, public health, and public safety. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to get this right.”

Most recently, Gov. Northam released his budget proposal which included funding for expungements for those with past marijuana convictions as well as funds to help establish a legal adult use marijuana market.

Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring also recently voiced his support for legalization, tweeting, “Virginia needs to allow legal, regulated adult use of marijuana as a matter of public safety, justice, equity, and economic opportunity.” 

House Majority Leader Charniele Herring recently predicted that a legalization bill has “a good chance” to clear that chamber in 2021, while Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw placed the odds of Senate passage at “slightly better than 50-50.”

A working group appointed to study the issue, which included NORML Development Director and Virginia NORML Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, released recommendations to lawmakers last month on how Virginia should go about legalizing adult use marijuana next year.

In 2020, multiple pieces of reform legislation were enacted, including the historic decriminalization of marijuana possession, as well as making participation in the medical marijuana program legal under state law, and banning police searches on the basis of marijuana odor.

Virginia’s legislative session begins on January 13, 2020.

According to statewide polling data, 61 percent of Virginia adults support “the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults.”

If you live in Virginia, send a message to your state lawmakers in support of legislative efforts to legalize and regulate adult use marijuana in the Commonwealth.