Northam offers details on path to marijuana legalization in Virginia

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who said two weeks ago that “it’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia,” has released a comprehensive road map for controlling and regulating adult-use marijuana in the commonwealth.

After the Virginia General Assembly decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana earlier this year, the Northam administration has moved swiftly, releasing a major report spelling out what the impact would be if Virginia became the 16th state in the U.S., and the first in the South, to legalize marijuana. Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

The report by the governor’s Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group identifies the efforts the state must undertake to oversee a new industry, estimated to be worth between $700 million and $1 billion in annual economic activity.

The report specifies the goals of legalizing marijuana, including protecting public health, undoing the harm caused by past policies that criminalized possession, creating opportunities for equitable industry participation and raising tax revenue.

Virginia has a medical marijuana program, which the report said the state can build upon to make successful legalization a bit easier.

The work group consists of the state secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Finance, Health and Human Resources and Public Safety and Homeland Security.

The report discusses how to manage a range of issues that would come with legalization, including possession limits, how to allow personal cultivation, how to regulate retail sites and manage advertising, packaging and labeling.

The work group recommended that Virginia learn from other U.S. states, in particular the 10 that have established legal and regulatory frameworks for marijuana sales. These are Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan and Illinois.

“We will advance new laws to make sure that our commonwealth legalizes marijuana the right way,” Northam said in a news release Monday that accompanied the report.

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