Richmond, VA: Democratic Governor Ralph Northam announced amendments on Tuesday to legislation (Senate Bill 1406 | House Bill 2312) establishing a statutory timeline for the legalization of marijuana possession, use, cultivation, and retail sales. Among other proposed changes in the law, the amendments recommended that provisions legalizing the personal possession and personal cultivation of cannabis by adults take effect on July 1, 2021 rather than on January 1, 2024 — the enactment date initially approved by lawmakers.
Should the legislature vote to approve the amendment, those ages 21 and older would be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and to cultivate up to four cannabis plants per household without penalty later this year. The legislature is set to reconvene on April 7 to accept or reject the proposed amendments.
The timeline by which state regulators would have to enact provisions governing commercial cannabis production and sales would remain January 1, 2024.
“Our Commonwealth is committed to legalizing marijuana in an equitable way,” said Governor Northam in a statement. “Virginia will become the 16th state to legalize marijuana—and these changes will ensure we do it with a focus on public safety, public health, and social justice. I am grateful to the advocates and legislators for their dedicated work on this important issue, and I look forward to this legislation passing next month.”
Commenting on the proposed amendments, NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, said: “We’re pleased Governor Northam agrees with NORML that the legalization of personal possession and personal cultivation ought to happen as soon as possible. Virginians have been very clear that they are ready for legalization this year, sending over 7,100 emails in support of these measures this session.”
Another amendment recommended by the Governor expedites the timeline for state officials to begin expunging and sealing the records of those with prior marijuana-related convictions.
“NORML worked closely with the bill sponsors and the Attorney General to provide substantial amendment language to Governor Northam,” Pedini added. “While a number of important improvements were made, we’re disappointed that Virginia is not following the common-sense pathways previously established by other states that have successfully expanded from medical-use to adult-use. In the interest of public and consumer safety, Virginians 21 and older should be able to purchase retail cannabis products at the already operational dispensaries in 2021, not in 2024. Such a delay will only exacerbate the divide for equity applicants and embolden illicit activity. NORML remains dedicated to continuing our work with lawmakers and regulators to advance legislative reforms that are most closely aligned with the views of the majority of Virginians who desire a safe, legal cannabis market.”
In recent days, Governor Northam approved multiple medical cannabis measures permitting dispensaries to provide botanical formulations of cannabis, expanding telehealth access for patients, and protecting registered patients who use cannabis in their off-hours from discrimination in the workplace.For more information, contact NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, or visit Virginia NORML.