Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday he plans to propose legislation legalizing marijuana when the General Assembly convenes in January, setting the state on a path to become the first in the South to allow recreational use of the drug.
“We are going to move forward with legalizing marijuana in Virginia,” Northam said. “I support that and am committed to doing it the right way.”
Northam, a physician who says he’s never used the drug, cautioned “it’s not going to happen overnight,” saying he envisions an 18 to 24 month timetable for the state to establish and regulate the new marketplace.
His administration has been studying the issue and many details remain unresolved, but Northam said he intends to emphasize public health protections and social equity issues as the state moves forward.
“Marijuana laws have been based originally in discrimination and undoing these harms means things like social equity licenses, access to capital, community reinvestment and sealing or expunging people’s prior records,” he said.
Lawmakers in the House of Delegates say a legalization bill would likely pass the chamber. In the Senate, Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said last week he gave it “slightly better than 50-50” odds. [Read more at Virginia Mercury]