Possessing and growing small amounts of marijuana in Virginia could be legal as early as this July should Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed bill changes pass in the state legislature. The original legalization bill, which cleared the General Assembly in February, put off legalization until 2024.
Northam’s decision to propose an accelerated process is the result of a state study that showed Black Virginians were disproportionately policed and convicted for marijuana possession, even when it was decriminalized last year, according to NBC. “Our Commonwealth is committed to legalizing marijuana in an equitable way,” Northam said in a news release. “Virginia will become the 15th state to legalize marijuana—and these changes will ensure we do it with a focus on public safety, public health, and social justice.”
If passed, the bill will allow adults 21 and up, starting July 1, to possess up to one ounce of cannabis without intent to distribute, and Virginians can grow four plants per household. The sale of marijuana still won’t be permitted until January 1, 2024.
Northam’s changes would also speed up the process of sealing records for marijuana convictions, although there is no specific timetable. “Governor Northam’s amendments allow for expungement and sealing of criminal records on marijuana to begin as soon as state agencies are able to do so and simplify the criteria for when records can be sealed,” according to the release.