Governor Northam Announces Support For Cannabis Legalization Legislation

One month after the opening of Virginia’s first medical cannabis dispensary, Governor Ralph Northam (D) is making clear his intentions to help further cannabis legalization efforts in the legislature.

Governor Northam on Monday announced that he plans to introduce and support legislation to legalize cannabis in the Commonwealth.

Northam previously demonstrated support for cannabis policy reform when he approved legislation on April 12, 2020, to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, replacing jail time with a fine of $25 or less.

According to a press release, Governor Northam is currently working with lawmakers to finalize the necessary legislation ahead of the 2021 General Assembly session.

“It’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia,” says Governor Northam. “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.”

According to Governor Northam, acceptable adult-use cannabis legislation will address substance abuse prevention efforts, protections for young people, and data collection, as well as issues involving social, racial, and economic equity.

The legislation must also adhere to guidelines established by the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act, which prohibits indoor tobacco use.

The Northam Administration is currently preparing to release a report addressing the impact of legalizing adult-use cannabis.

The decriminalization legislation that Governor Northam signed in April mandated the creation of the report, which drew input from policy experts, community leaders, healthcare professionals, and government officials.

The law required the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Finance, Health and Human Services, and Public Safety and Homeland Security to study the effects of legalization through the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group and report recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor Northam by November 30, 2020.