Virginia will let adults 21 and older legally possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use effective July 1 following the passage of a bill by the state General Assembly on Wednesday.
Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, said Virginia is now the first state in the south to legalize marijuana, which is prohibited under federal law but permitted in most of the country to varying degrees.
The bill will allow for adults in Virginia to possess up to an ounce of marijuana as well as legalize the cultivation of up to four plants for each household once it becomes law in a few months.
Virginia state lawmakers had voted in February to legalize marijuana effective Jan. 1, 2024, but Mr. Northam returned that bill requesting changes including moving up its start by nearly three years.
“This is a monumental step to address racial disparities in our criminal justice system and build an equitable, inclusive future for our Commonwealth,” Mr. Northam said in a statement later Wednesday.
“Marijuana laws were explicitly designed to target communities of color, and Black Virginians are disproportionately likely to be stopped, charged and convicted,” he continued. “Today, Virginia took a critical step to right these wrongs and restore justice to those harmed by decades of over-criminalization.”
The majority of states in the U.S. have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, including more than a dozen that permit adults to use the plant for recreational purposes.
A growing number of states have also passed laws in recent years allowing for adults to purchase recreational marijuana from licensed dispensaries. Virginia is expected to join that list in 2024.
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