RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginians who are 21 and older could be allowed to legally purchase marijuana in 2023 if legislation unveiled by Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration Wednesday is approved during this year’s General Assembly session.
The proposal comes as lawmakers convene for the first day of the session and ahead of the governor’s State of the Commonwealth address. The following is text of an excerpt of Northam’s planned remarks on the issue, as prepared for delivery:
“It’s time to join 16 other states and make marijuana legal, and end the current system rooted in inequity. We’ve done the research, and we can do this the right way, leading with social equity, public health, and public safety. Reforming our marijuana laws is one way to ensure that Virginia is a more just state that works better for everyone.”
“Marijuana has become a cash crop that rivals tobacco—even here in Virginia. But as an illegal crop, it makes no money for Virginia. By legalizing and taxing it, we can use the revenue to help communities most disproportionately impacted by the inequities in our laws.”
Sales of recreational cannabis would not begin until Jan.1, 2023, but would have a quick timeline of roughly 20 to 22 months after the bill is passed. Alena Yarmosky, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the bill is being filed Wednesday.
Northam set priorities for legalization in an outline of the legalization:
- Social equity, racial equity and economic equity
- Public health
- Protections for young people
- Upholding the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act
- Data collection
Northam’s proposal would put limits on possession, no more than an ounce of “marijuana plant material,” and the concentration of businesses.
The group tasked with outlining how Virginia would implement marijuana legalization discussed creating a state-run agency, similar to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, giving the commonwealth a monopoly on the retail sale of cannabis, according to a report made public in November.
The possibility of having a standalone agency to oversee legal marijuana sales and licenses was among one of the points presented in a report from the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group, which was assembled to study legalization at the request of state lawmakers as the commonwealth was passing its decriminalization bill.
“We will advance new laws to make sure that our Commonwealth legalizes marijuana the right way,” Northam said in a statement then. “Virginia has studied the experience of other states and this report lays out a path forward that leads with social equity, public health, and public safety.”
Under this new proposal from Northam’s administration, Virginia ABC will regulate the industry and a seven member Cannabis Control Advisory Board within the agency will lead the work and advise ABC’s board.