Governor Northam announces support for legalizing marijuana in Virginia


FAIRFAX, Va. (WDVM) — Governor Ralph Northam announced Monday his support for legalizing marijuana in the Commonwealth.

Northam said, “Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to be the first state in the South to take this step, and we will lead with a focus on equity, public health, and public safety.”

In the proposed legislation, it will address 5 following principles.

  • Social equity, racial equity, and economic equity. Marijuana prohibition has historically been based in discrimination, and the impact of criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed minority communities as result. Legislation should focus on undoing these harms by including initiatives such as social equity license programs, access to capital, community reinvestment, and sealing or expunging records of past marijuana-related convictions.
  • Public health. Legislation should include substance abuse prevention efforts in schools and communities.
  • Protections for young people. As a pediatrician, Governor Northam will require any legislation to include protections for Virginia’s youth, including age limits, mandatory ID checks, and education campaigns.
  • Upholding the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. Legislation should be aligned with the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act prohibiting indoor tobacco use, which Governor Northam championed as a state Senator.
  • Data collection. Legislation should ensure Virginia collects appropriate and ongoing information on safety, health, and equity.

Semaj Smith, Fairfax Resident said, “It will take some of the stigma away from how black people are perceived when it comes to recreational drug use. I think that will be a good first step or good direction to go into.”

Another Fairfax resident, said while she supports the bill, she also believes, minorities who have been arrested and convicted for marijuana use records should get expunged.

Sydni Austin, Fairfax Resident said, “I don’t think that I would have an issue with it. I don’t really see Marijuana as they paint the picture in school like it’s a gateway drug.”

Northam’s administration said they will work closely with lawmakers to be ready for the upcoming General Assembly session. If Virginia chooses to legalize adult use of marijuana, it would likely take at least two years to put a regulatory structure in place and begin licensing companies to operate in the state according to officials.

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