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Lawmakers wrap session, passing budget and marijuana compromise

Published: Feb. 27, 2021 at 11:32 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Members of the Virginia General Assembly completed their work Saturday night, approving amendments to the state budget and passing legislation that would legalize the adult use of marijuana.

The budget compromise passed easily in both chambers, drawing support on both sides of the aisle.

“There are a lot of items in here that people might like and dislike,” said Sen. Steve Newman (R-Bedford Co.), “but when it comes to overall fiscal responsibility, I think this bill does better than most.”

The marijuana legislation was much closer.

Some Republicans expressed strong opposition to legalization.

“The war on drugs, they say, has been lost. What effect is this going to have on drugs?” asked Del. Tommy Wright (R-Lunenburg). “It’s just a gateway to even worse drugs. And you can tell this by what’s happened in other states.”

Some Democrats objected to the delay in implementation.

“Even the thought of business before justice is hard to stomach,” said Del. Cia Price (D-Newport News) “knowing that some of my constituents are in jail right now and more may be sent to jail while we’re establishing the regulatory authority for the business pieces.”

The vote was close, but the compromise passed in both chambers.

“I’m still convinced that the time is now,” said Del. Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico). “I hope and I’m confident that the governor will send down amendments and we can make this bill better.”

The marijuana legislation will create a new state agency July 1, but many provisions will require a second vote next year. And legalization won’t occur until January 1, 2024.

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