Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said on Monday that he plans to introduce cannabis legalization legislation when the session begins in January, the Virginia Mercury reports. The governor, who is also a physician, estimates it would take 18 months to two years to establish regulated sales in the state.
“We are going to move forward with legalizing marijuana in Virginia. I support that and am committed to doing it the right way. … Marijuana laws have been based originally in discrimination and undoing these harms means things like social equity licenses, access to capital, community reinvestment and sealing or expunging people’s prior records.” – Northam via the Mercury
In an interview with the Mercury last week, Democratic Majority Leader Dick Saslaw gave legalization in Virginia “slightly better than 50-50 odds” in the Senate, while House of Delegates members expected it would be approved in the chamber.
The governor’s comments come on the day the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission released their report on legalization, which suggests cannabis-derived tax revenues could reach $300 million per year by the fifth year of operations. The report estimates that the industry could create 11,000 jobs but noted that most would be lower-paying positions in retail, cultivation, packaging, and security.
The commission also said cannabis arrests would drop 84 percent post-legalization and that 120,000 Virginians – more than half of whom are Black – could benefit if legalization included expungement provisions for crimes legal under the reforms.
The report favored smaller, Virginia-owned, businesses rather than vertically-integrated, multi-state operators but nothing in the report is mandatory for the legalization law.
If approved, Virginia would be the first state in the South to legalize cannabis for adult-use.
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