Mar 31, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Virginia Gov. Northam says he wants to legalize marijuana this year

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaking in Alexandria on March 30.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaking in Alexandria on March 30. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wants to legalize possession and growth of small amounts of recreational marijuana starting this July, according to changes he proposed Wednesday to legislation passed in February.

Why it matters: That proposed deadline is roughly three years earlier than what's been suggested in the state's legislature — which, if passed, would make Virginia the 16th state in the U.S. and first southern state to legalize the drug.

What they're saying: “Our Commonwealth is committed to legalizing marijuana in an equitable way,” Northam said on Wednesday. “Virginia will become the 15th state to legalize marijuana — and these changes will ensure we do it with a focus on public safety, public health, and social justice."

  • "I am grateful to the advocates and legislators for their dedicated work on this important issue, and I look forward to this legislation passing next month.”

Of note: New York became the 15th state to legalize marijuana on Wednesday.

The big picture: Northam's office said that a report commissioned by the state found that Black people in Virginia were disproportionately policed and convicted for marijuana use, which is the driver behind the amendment to speed up legalization.

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