Marijuana legalization bills passed in General Assembly

Virginia Politics

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate on Friday passed their respective bills that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older.

If the legislation is signed by Northam, Virginia would become the first in the South to authorize recreational use of cannabis, however, it still remains unclear when it will go into effect.

The House vote was 55-42 across party lines for Del. Charniele L. Herring’s HB 2312. All Republicans voted against the measure except for two who abstained, James Edmunds (Southside) and Will Morefield (Southwest Virginia).

Later in the day Friday, the Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate also passed a bill 21-15 to legalize marijuana.

There are still several differences between the House and Senate versions that have to be ironed out, including allowing localities to opt-out and possibly legalizing possession before sales.

The Senate version also includes a reenactment clause, meaning the General Assembly would have to pass the bill again in 2022. This provision could prove troublesome if Republicans take back control of the House next year.

While the proposed target date for legal sales was pushed back in the Senate, an amendment was introduced to eliminate the $25 civil penalty by July.

Despite its approval, the House’s version of the legislation would not repeal the civil penalty that comes with decriminalization until 2024. The Senate’s bill, a proposal from the governor formally introduced by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), originally called for legal sales to begin in 2023.

Sales of recreational cannabis would not begin until Jan. 1, 2024 under the proposal, which was recently amended. Gov. Ralph Northam had originally proposed a year earlier.

If differences are ironed out between the Senate and House bills, Northam is expected to sign it into law.

This comes after the House joined the Senate in voting to abolish the death penalty in Virginia. Northam is also expected to sign that bill.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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