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Marijuana could be legal by July 1

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam proposed Wednesday, March 31, that the state move up the legalization of simple possession of marijuana to July 1, 2021, almost three years earlier than originally approved by the General Assembly.

Ralph Northam

In a release from the Office of Gov. Northam, officials noted the changes came Wednesday in the form of amendments to Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312, which legalize adult-use cannabis in the state.

The amendments will allow adults to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, without intent to distribute, beginning July 1 of this year.

According to the release, Northam’s amendments would maintain current public safety measures that prohibit smoking while driving, including while operating a school bus, and possession on school grounds.

The amendments would also allow households to grow up to four marijuana plants beginning July 1 as long as the plants are labeled with identification information, are out of sight from public view and are out of range of individuals under the age of 21.

Two budget amendments proposed by Northam would fund a public awareness campaign on the health and safety risks of cannabis and would also fund training to help law enforcement officers recognize and prevent drugged driving. More amendments would speed up the expungement and sealing of criminal records on marijuana and would authorize the new Cannabis Control Authority to revoke a company’s business license should they interfere with union organizing efforts, fail to pay a prevailing wage or classify more than 10% of employees as independent contractors.

Many local residents were quick to express their support of the amendments.

“Maybe this will help rectify the issues with our current marijuana legislation and its disproportionate impact on the Black population,” resident Megan Garrett said in response to the news.

Local Ben Gano said the abolition of marijuana in Virginia was bad policy, adding the legalization of the substance is long overdue.

“It’s a plant,” wrote Melondy Dasher Curtin. “Of course it should be made legal.”

Other comments to the news by locals were not so favorable.

“Is it time yet for a new governor?” asked Melissa-Sue Wallace.

Northam’s proposal will be reviewed by legislators when the General Assembly reconvenes June 7.