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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Introducing Legalization Of Marijuana In 2021

RICHMOND, VA – JUNE 04: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) speaks during a news conference on June 4, . [+] 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. Gov. Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced plans to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam’s introduced his plan to legalize marijuana for the state in 2021, reports Virginia Mercury.

Following a report by the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission suggesting cannabis-derived tax revenues for the state could reach $300 million per year (by year five) with a potential 11,000 jobs within retail, cultivation, packaging, and security, for the state, the office of Northam seems to be “certainly open to it.”

In a statement via Mercury, Gov. Northam further divulged his views moving forward:

“We are going to move forward with legalizing marijuana in Virginia. I support that and am committed to doing it the right way. Marijuana laws have been based originally on discrimination and undoing these harms means things like social equity licenses, access to capital, community reinvestment and sealing or expunging people’s prior records.”

Virginia ranks 27th state in the Nation amongst racial disparities for marijuana possession, with African Americans 3.4 times likely to be arrested over Whites. Additionally, 52% of the state’s arrests are from marijuana possession, based on an ACLU report.

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The racial disparity within the state has called leaders to make sure the legalization gets for opportunity amongst those affected. House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) suggests one area she wants to prioritize is making sure the populations most impacted by prohibition, Black Virginians, have the opportunity to participate in any new industry presented. Similar to other states like Michigan, the opportunity to incentivize retail and production licensing programs towards minority-owned businesses.

In preparation for the new changes within the state, Northam plans to thoroughly study how other states successfully enacted legalization from infrastructure and taxes to licensing, and distribution. Since its announcement, lawmakers have requested two studies on potential regulatory models and tax schemes since decriminalization in March for the state; both are due within this month.

Despite no presented proposal towards its legalization, General Assembly members already seem relatively optimistic about it passing. “I can tell you I think it will pass.” said chairman of the House’s criminal law subcommittee, Del. Mike Mullin (D-Newport News). Additionally, Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) agreed with Mullin that a legalization bill could clear the chamber: “I think it has a good chance,” she said.

The push towards legalization in Virginia is not surprising from a historical perspective with allowing medical use of CBD in 2017 and reducing penalties and expanding the “low-THC oil program” in 2019. Additionally, the recently signed decriminalization bill (SB 2/ HB 972) towards simple possession. Under the current law, possession of one ounce or less is punishable by a fine of up to $25, the lowest penalty of any decriminalization law in the country.

Proposals to legalize recreational marijuana in Virginia are set for January when the General Assembly reconvenes. If passed, Virginia will be the 16th state to legalize in the US, following New Jersey, South Dakota, Arizona, and Montana.

On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam’s introduced his plan to legalize marijuana for the state in 2021.