MANILA — Newswire agency has reported on Wednesday that Virginia in the United States became the first Southern state to legalize marijuana.
This after lawmakers voted to approve Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed changes to a bill that will allow adults to possess and cultivate small amounts of the drug starting in July.
Northam sent the bill back to lawmakers substantially changed from the version that squeaked out of the General Assembly in February the newswire said.
It also said the amendments lawmakers agreed to on Wednesday would accelerate the timeline of legalization by about three years, well before retail sales would begin, a move that’s been cheered by racial justice advocates.
“The time has come for our state to legalize marijuana. The amendments ensure that while we’re doing the complicated work of standing up a commercial market, we aren’t delaying immediate reforms that will make our Commonwealth more equitable for all Virginians,” House Majority Leader Charniele Herring was quoted by AP as saying while urging her colleagues to approve the governor’s changes.
Democrats said the bill was a matter of urgency, a necessary step to end what state figures show is disparate treatment of people of color under current marijuana laws.
Northam’s amendments cleared House 53-44 with two abstentions during a one-day session held for the purpose of putting the finishing touches on the year’s legislation. In the Senate, lawmakers deadlocked 20-20, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax broke the tie, voting to approve the changes.
The final version of the legislation would allow adults 21 and up to legally possess up to one ounce (28.3 grams) of cannabis without the intent to distribute beginning July 1. It also would allow the home cultivation of up to four plants per household beginning July 1. Public use of the drug will be prohibited. (AI/With reports from AP)