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Virginia Senate Follows House's Lead, Votes to Legalize Marijuana

Lawmakers are moving forward with legalizing marijuana.

As Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said on the Senate floor, it's high time Virginia does something about marijuana. He made that crack after senators started a debate about the legalization of marijuana at 4:20 in the afternoon.

They approved a bill introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin, a Democrat from Alexandria that creates an independent agency to regulate the new industry. It would also create social equity licenses to make sure that communities harmed by the war on drugs are able to benefit from the coming windfall profits.

"It is a forward thinking, deliberative approach to create a regulated adult-use market for cannabis, which will reform our criminal justice system and begin the long process of undoing the harms of prohibition," Ebbin explained.

Marijuana legalization has some Republican support, although Republican Senator Mark Peake of Lynchburg was not among them.

"I find it inexcusable that this administration has devoted more time and attention and effort into getting THC into the bloodstreams of our minority community than it has in getting the coronavirus vaccine into the bloodstreams of our minority community," Peake said.

Many of the details still need to be worked out before it gets to the governor, but possession is likely to be legal this summer and commercial sales are likely to begin on New Year’s Day 2024.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.