Watch: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Ceremonially Signs Cannabis Legislation
Virginia is for (cannabis) lovers.
On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam ceremonially signed legislation that legalizes adult-use cannabis in Virginia.
The event came two weeks after the Virginia General Assembly passed a revised bill that included several amendments, including one making cannabis possession legal on July 1, 2021 instead of January 1, 2024.
“Who’s counting, but 71 days from now, Virginia will no longer police adults for possessing small amounts of marijuana,” Northam said during Wednesday’s ceremony. “What this really means is that people will no longer be arrested or face penalties for simple possession that follow them and affect their lives.”
While the legislation was technically enacted on April 7, at the time making Virginia the 17th U.S. state — and the first in the South — to legalize cannabis for adult use, the signature event served as an opportunity for Northam and cannabis advocates to “celebrate a milestone” just one day after the unofficial “420” marijuana holiday.
“Today, and together, we celebrate an extraordinary victory for cannabis justice in the Commonwealth,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director of NORML’s Virginia chapter.
Under the new law, adults over the age of 21 will be allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis beginning July 1. Those who possess more than one ounce, but not more than one pound, will be fined $25.
The home cultivation up to four plans for personal use will also be permitted.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, a new Cannabis Control Authority tasked with regulating the adult-use market will be established, and a five-member board will issue regulations, licenses, and fines.
A total of 400 cannabis dispensaries, 25 wholesalers, 450 cultivators and 60 product manufacturers will be permitted to obtain licenses.
New licensees will not be permitted to vertically integrate, however existing medical marijuana operators will be allowed obtain multiple licenses if they pay a $1 million fee to the Virginia Cannabis Equity Loan Fund and the Virginia Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, and if they submit plans for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Virginia is the single most prepared state to ever undertake a legalization effort,” Pedini said, noting that study work groups prioritized equity, consumer safety and restorative justice.
“This is why the legislation succeeded and on its first attempt,” she added.
Indeed, a Cannabis Business Equity and Diversity Support Team will be created to “identify barriers to inclusion, offer technical assistance, conduct outreach, and develop requirements for diversity, equity, and inclusion plans,” according to MPP.
Additionally, a 21-member Cannabis Public Health Advisory Council will be established to “assess and monitor public health impacts and make recommendations.”
Sales of adult-use cannabis will not begin until January 1, 2024, or later, and an added tax of 21% on top of the state’s existing 6% sales tax will be levied at the point of sale.