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Northam Amends Marijuana Legislation


Governor Ralph Northam is amending a bill on marijuana legalization.  The governor's amendment will make marijuana fully legal sooner than anticipated.

If lawmakers agree with Governor Ralph Northam’s amendments, possession and use of small amounts of marijuana will be fully legal in Virginia as of July First of this year. No criminal penalty. No civil penalty. No regulated market yet either, although that'll come later.

Read the complete announcement

Advocates have been pressing Northam to amend the bill lawmakers sent him last month to speed up the timeline for full legalization from 2024 to this summer. Now they’re celebrating a major legislative win.

"It really is an extraordinary victory," says Jenn Michelle Pedini with Virginia NORML.  "We're really thrilled to see that Governor Northam agrees with NORML and with Virginians that legalization ought to take effect on July First of this year."

Some lawmakers were concerned about making a product legal without first setting up a regulated marketplace. But Senator Adam Ebbin says lawmakers and the governor heard the message from advocates and constituents that waiting would be a mistake.   "The governor and lawmakers have heard from the public, and people recognize that it didn't seem logical to a lot of folks at face value to say this is going to be a public policy decision to make something legal without eliminating the penalties right away."

So marijuana will be legal this summer, but don’t expect commercial sales to begin until New Years 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.