Virginia moves up marijuana legalization to this summer

Virginia moves up marijuana legalization to this summer
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Virginia is set to legalize possession of marijuana this summer, three years ahead of schedule, after the state's General Assembly gave its final approval Wednesday to a new timetable, making it the first southern state to approve recreational use of cannabis.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) proposed last month moving up the schedule after state lawmakers passed legislation in February that would have legalized recreational pot in 2024. Northam's office pushed for the acceleration following a report that found that Black Virginians “were more than three times as likely to be arrested for simple possession of marijuana.”

Under Northam's amendments to the bill, Virginians will be able to legally grow up to four cannabis plants within their households starting on July 1. People who choose to grow the plants must label them and keep them out of public view and away from anyone 21 years old or younger, according to a local ABC affiliate station.

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“I think providing a safe, legal means for folks to produce while we set up the regulatory framework is important,” state Sen. Jeremy McPike (D) told the outlet.

Northam had called on the General Assembly to adopt his amendments in a tweet earlieir Wednesday.

Some Republican lawmakers pushed back on the acceleration, saying that law enforcement would not have enough time to prepare, according to ABC 8 News.

“There is a right way and a wrong way to do this. We are doing this the wrong way by trying to rush another bill with more than 50,000 substantial changes,” said state Sen. Bryce Reeves (R).