Virginia made history on November 16 when Attorney General Mark Herring and Governor Ralph Northam announced that they feel it’s time to legalize cannabis for recreational use.
“It’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia,” Governor Northam said in a press release. “Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to be the first state in the South to take this step, and we will lead with a focus on equity, public health, and public safety. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to get this right.”
However, according to a study from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), there are also many considerations that must be examined in order to ensure a properly running industry. This includes predicting how much tax revenue that could be brought in by recreational legal cannabis, as well as the arrests and convictions that could be spared through legalization.
“JLARC suggested that if we go to a legalization of marijuana format, that there’s a lot of different policy considerations that the General Assembly has to consider, like what age is it appropriate, who gets to distribute it, are we going to set up some kind of market place, are we going to tax it, is there going to be some kind of a mechanism to say that if you’re driving while consuming this that it would be subject to a driving under the influence charge?,” Wise County Commonwealth Attorney Chuck Slemp told News Channel 11.
“I support smart marijuana legalization. I think that it has to be coupled with appropriate taxation, regulation, and public safety measures to ensure that we’re not having a bunch of folks driving while intoxicated, that we don’t have individuals abusing their children while high on medication, but with that being said, I think that the steps that the JLARC committee recommended are pretty smart and I’m hopeful that the General Assembly will put in place the safety precautions that JLARC recommended,” Slemp added.
Earlier this year in January, Governor Northam approved legislation to decriminalize cannabis, which took effect on July 2, 2020. This law made cannabis violation fines a maximum of $25, and now results in no arrests or criminal record convictions.