Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana possession this summer

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana on July 1.
Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana on July 1.(WDBJ7)
Published: Apr. 7, 2021 at 7:03 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - State lawmakers have voted to speed up the legalization of marijuana, allowing the possession of small amounts beginning this summer.

It took a tie-breaker from Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax Wednesday afternoon.

Lawmakers had already approved legalization, but not until 2024 when regulations would be in place, and legal dispensaries would be ready to open. The governor’s amendment moved up the legal possession of less than once ounce of marijuana to July 1 of this year.

“There’s so much wrong with this substitute, it’s hard to know where to begin,” said Del. Kathy Byron (R-Bedford Co.) as the House began debating the proposal.

The marijuana amendment drew fire for a number of reasons.

Some Republicans opposed language they said was an attack on Virginia’s Right-To-Work law. And others, including Botetourt Delegate Chris Head, argued it was foolhardy to legalize possession before a system for legal sales is in place.

“By legalizing before we have retail stores in place,” Head told the House, “we are super-charging illicit sales.”

But Democrats in both chambers defended the amendment.

“Let’s be clear what this bill does,” said Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax Co.). “This bill legalizes the possession of small amounts under an ounce, by adults, in certain circumstances and that’s it.”

And when it came up for a decision in the State Senate, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax cast the tie-breaking vote.

So to recap, the amendment approved Wednesday allows Virginians over the age of 21 to possess less than an ounce of marijuana, and grow up to four plants at home beginning July 1.

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