Gov. Northam signs marijuana legalization bill

Gov. Northam signs marijuana legalization bill

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - History has been made in Virginia, as Governor Ralph Northam signed the marijuana legalization bill on Wednesday afternoon.

This makes Virginia the first Southern state to do so. Starting July first, Virginians can have and grow small amounts of pot.

“This goes back centuries,” the governor said about marijuana use. ”So what we’re doing now is just making it equitable, and we’re stopping the disproportionate arrests of individuals.”

Northam says the legalization was about “equity” above all; studies show Black Virginians are four times more likely to face marijuana charges than white Virginians.

Starting in July, the law legalizes having up to an ounce if you’re 21 and older. It allows people to grow up to four marijuana plants at home, and it speeds up the expungement of past marijuana convictions, among other things.

“If can do it earlier, we’re going to do it earlier,” Delegate Charniele Herring said about the expungement of records.

Retail sales are still a few years away in 2024, but one industry expert says businesses need to start planning now.

“The cannabis authority is going to be set up now, you got to be ready to plug yourself in with that authority and involve yourself with the regulatory process from day one,” said Greg Habeeb with Gentry Locke Consulting.

Habeeb says there are three types of businesses looking to get their hand in the pot: businesses like medical dispensaries that want to sell the drug without a prescription; businesses that want to add marijuana to their repertoire; and businesses looking to build from the ground up.

“Businesses that want to get engaged need to make sure that they’re structured properly, make sure they’re ready to take advantage of special licensure categories, like social equity applicants, which are a special category.”

He adds that businesses that do not start as soon as this year run the risk of falling behind and potentially locking themselves out of industry altogether.

The legislation created a new state agency, The Cannabis Control Authority, that will oversee the marijuana marketplace.

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