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Virginia lawmakers approve recreational marijuana use

Virginia lawmakers approve recreational marijuana use
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Virginia lawmakers passed a bill on Saturday that will legalize recreational marijuana in 2024.

Passing the bill was top priority for state Democrats who portrayed the bill as a way to end laws that disproportionately affect people of color, the Associated Press reported.

“It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would say that we’re on the path to an equitable law allowing responsible adults to use cannabis,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), the bill's chief sponsor. 

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Democrats are hoping that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) will send the bill back with amendments, the AP reports, along with an expedited date for legalization. Alena Yarmosky, a spokesperson for the governor, said he “looks forward to continuing to improve this legislation.”

"If we have already made the decision that simple possession should be repealed, we could have done that today and ended the disproportionate fines on communities of color,” state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D) said. “Let’s be absolutely clear — this bill is not legalization, and there are a lot of steps between here and legalization.” 

“This moves us in a ... direction to strike down and to address those institutional barriers, and over-policing, over-arrests, over-convictions of African Americans who do not use marijuana at a higher rate than our white counterparts, but we seem to get the brunt of criminal convictions," House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D) said.

The bill would allow up to an ounce of marijuana to be legally carried at the start of 2024. Sale of marijuana as well as regulation of the marijuana market will also go into effect at the same time, according to AP.

Virginia decriminalized marijuana last year, making possession a civil penalty punishable by a fine of $25 at most.