Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said Monday that in January legislation will be introduced that would legalize cannabis in the commonwealth. “We are going to move forward with legalizing marijuana in Virginia,” Northam said, according to the Virginia Mercury. State Senator Dick Saslaw, the Senate Majority Leader, told the Mercury last week that he thought the legislation had “slightly better than 50-50” odds of passing his chamber.
Virginia decriminalized marijuana possession earlier this year, making it a civil offense to have less than one ounce and lessening penalties. State Senator Adam Ebbin of Northern Virginia was key to that effort; he told Washingtonian late last year that he viewed decriminalization as “a responsible step in the direction of legalization.” The commonwealth also has a medical marijuana program.
The state legislature commissioned a study of legalization that found such a step could generate $300 million in tax revenue, the Washington Post reports. If Virginia were to legalize cannabis, it would be the first Southern state to do so and would join a wave of successful similar efforts around the country. The District of Columbia voted to legalize cannabis in 2014, though congressional meddling left it with a confusing gray market for many consumers. Maryland has partly decriminalized cannabis and has a medical marijuana program.