Virginia House approves Northam’s push to speed up marijuana legalization

Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 4:31 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia lawmakers have approved Governor Ralph Northam’s push to speed up marijuana legislation.

The House voted 53 to 44, with two abstaining, in favor of Northam’s new dates. The Senate voted 20 to 20 with Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, casting the deciding vote in favor of the passage.

The bill that landed on the governor’s desk called for legalization in 2024, but Northam says he wants to get it done in a matter of months, no later than July 1 of this year.

The specific amendment called for pushing up legalizing simple possession of one ounce of the drug.

Both chamber sessions were scheduled to start at 12 p.m. on Thursday. It wasn’t until around 3:30 p.m. that the House of Delegates finally cast their votes, with the Senate about one hour later.

It drew comments from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle:

“If there is any expectation by any of you altruists who are determined to make this a part of your legislative legacy and advance it now, you think about that. You think about whether or not your children are going to not smoke marijuana when you tell them ‘You can’t until you’re 21,’” said Senate Minority Leader, Senator Tommy Norment, Jr.

District 32 Representative, Janet Howell, said in response, “I would like to point out to the Senate Minority Leader, the kids are already smoking marijuana. They’re already doing it. And saying that you can’t do it one more time isn’t going to make any difference to them. To me, that’s a non-starter for an argument.”

The governor originally announced his proposals one week ago.

Northam’s office says the reasoning stemmed from unfair policing among Black Virginians.

The governor also called things like speeding up the sealing of records on past marijuana convictions to start as soon as possible, and tougher laws for equitable cannabis industry labor practices, along with more money for public health awareness on marijuana use.

The governor says retail sales would not start until 2024.

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