Virginia takes one step closer to legalizing cannabis sales with new legislation proposed today by Gov. Ralph Northam in a meeting in Richmond’s state capital. Backed by state Senators Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, and Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, the new laws allow people 21 and older to sell the drug starting on Jan. 1, 2023.
Back in November of last year, Governor Ralph Northam said to the local state assembly: “It’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia,” said Northam. “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. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to get this right,” he said. The Commonwealth already has limited access to medical cannabis.
However, the Virginian government authorities are inadvertently keeping open their illicit market in cannabis by having high taxes on the products which could add 20- 40% to the price according to Virginia’s state government’s own calculations.
As with many of the East Coast states moving towards full cannabis legalization, their plans have strong social equity components to help communities impacted by draconian cannabis laws. For example low interest loans and fee waivers for eligible individuals and entities.
According to a report issued in November by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) Virginia has made between 20,000 and 30,000 cannabis-law-related arrests in the previous ten years. This is despite the fact that Black and white Virginians consumer cannabis at about the same rate.
Also JLARC found Black Virginians are 3.5 times as likely to be arrested and convicted. JLARC also found that it would take two years and between $8 million and $20 million to set up a cannabis market in Virginia. A market they estimate could generate $300 million in annual sales tax revenue.