Virginia is now the 17th state to legalize cannabis for adult use and the fourth state to do so by passing a bill through its state legislature versus going to the voters. On Wednesday, Virginia lawmakers approved a bill that will legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales for adults 21 and over. It will probably be another two years before the state sees any retail sales.
“Virginia legislators are proving that it is possible to work swiftly to pass legislation that will not only legalize cannabis but also address the disproportionate harm caused by decades of prohibition,” said Steve Hawkins, MPP’s executive director. “Virginia is just the latest state to end cannabis prohibition and replace it with sensible legalization and regulation for adults 21 and over. MPP is proud to have played an important role in three of the four states where legislatures have voted to legalize cannabis — Vermont, Illinois, and now, Virginia.” Newly released statewide polling data finds that 68 percent of registered voters in Virginia, including majorities of Democrats and Republicans, support legalizing marijuana for adults.
MPP said that in addition to legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and over, the law will establish a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund that will be used to support persons, families, and communities that have been disproportionately affected by enforcement of cannabis laws. Legal possession and personal cultivation will begin on July 1, 2021.
You can find a summary of the bill here.
“It’s encouraging to see that legislators in so many states are embracing regulation as an alternative to failed prohibition policies,” said Matt Simon, MPP’s senior legislative analyst. “Virginia is the first state in the South to legalize cannabis, and we can be certain that others will follow as public support continues to grow.”
NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, said: “This is an incredible victory for Virginia. Legalization will bring an end to the thousands of low-level marijuana infractions occurring annually in the Commonwealth — ending a discriminatory practice that far too often targets Virginians who are young, poor, and people of color.”
Size of Market
A state-commissioned report suggested that “Depending on demand and the tax rate selected, commercial marijuana could produce $31–$62 million during the first full year of sales, depending on the state’s chosen tax rate (figure). By the fifth year of sales, commercial marijuana could produce $154–$308 million in tax revenue. If the state set the marijuana sales tax at 25 percent, there would eventually be an estimated $177–$300 million in net tax revenue after operational costs ($147–$250 million if the marijuana sales tax rate was set at 20 percent).” The report also said that Virginia’s marijuana industry could eventually be responsible for creating approximately 11,000 to more than 18,000 jobs (0.3 to 0.5 percent of the state’s workforce).
“Virginia Alcohol Board Control Authority could need $7–$9 million annually to hire approximately 85 to 105 staff. Creating a new agency could cost $9–$12 million annually to hire approximately 110 to 140 staff. VABC would also be able to implement its new responsibilities faster than a new agency.”
Activists Celebrate A Win
Majority Leader Charniele Herring added: “It is a huge day for equity in the Commonwealth. Virginia is now the first state in the South to legalize recreational marijuana use, and I am so proud to have been able to carry this monumental legislation. I am ever grateful for the commitment and advocacy from NORML on this topic. Getting Virginia to this day would not have been possible without their hard work and dedication to the cause.”
Senator Adam Ebbin said: “The passage of SB1406 caps off years of struggle to reform our broken and outdated marijuana laws and begins the deliberate steps to repeal the harms of the failed prohibition. I am thankful to NORML, the Governor, and my colleagues for moving this 283 bill from inception to passage over the last four months, and look forward to continuing to partner with them to establish a regulated, equity focused, adult-use marketplace in the coming years.”
“Virginians were very clear that they are ready for legalization this year, sending over 8,800 emails in support of these measures,” Pedini added.