Democrats took the majority in Virginia’s state House and Senate in 2019, opening the door for possible movement on the Commonwealth's decriminalization and/or legalization of recreational cannabis. In his recent State of the Commonwealth speech, Governor Ralph Northam (D) called for decriminalization and other reforms.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in 33 states and Washington, DC. Eleven states and D.C. have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana. About 60 percent of Americans support legalizing recreational marijuana and 94 percent are in favor of medical marijuana, according to a Quinnipiac poll.
“We need to take an honest look at our criminal justice system to make sure we’re treating people fairly and using taxpayer dollars wisely. This means decriminalizing marijuana possession—and clearing the records of people who’ve gotten in trouble for it,” Northam said, according to Forbes. He also spoke up for decriminalizing possession in his 2017 campaign and in a recent policy talk on criminal justice reform.
The Governor has noted that people of color are disproportionately impacted by marijuana arrests. Race has been a loaded issue for Northam, who admitted last year to being in a high school yearbook photo showing one person in Black face and one in a Klan robe.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D), hosted a pro-decriminalization cannabis summit in late 2019.
“It's time for Virginia to decriminalize, address past convictions and move toward legal, regulated adult use,” Herring tweeted before the summit.
Multiple related bills have been filed in the state. It is also expected that Virginia’s House and Senate will soon attempt to address the minimum wage, gun control, education and voting access, among other issues.
Watch the full State of the Commonwealth speech here: