The General Assembly Has Approved Marijuana Legalization, But Details Up in the Air

Feb 16, 2021

The House and the Senate have both approved legalizing marijuana, although there are differences between the two approaches that still need to be worked out.

Possession of marijuana could be legal as soon as this summer, and it could be legal to buy as soon as New Year’s Day 2024. Lawmakers are working their way through the details of a massive bill on marijuana legalization. And one part that Republicans have been critical of is preferential treatment for licenses to people who live in neighborhoods that have been over-policed in the war on drugs.

Senator Bill DeSteph is a Republican from Virginia Beach.

Credit U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

"And let us not mistake where you do sell drugs will be back in those same neighborhoods that you grew up and your family grew up in selling drugs," he said.

Senator Lionel Spruill is a Democrat from Chesapeake.

"What about all these kids who are not minorities when they drive past the Black communities and stop in those fine cars and buy a bag of whatever it is," asked Spruill. "What about that?"

House and Senate leaders have a difference of opinion on what the penalty should be for underage use and consuming while in a vehicle. They're also trying to work through differences on when possession should be legal, this summer or the date when commercial sales start in 2024. Those differences will be worked out behind closed doors in a conference committee.

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