Virginia became the first Southern state to legalize marijuana Wednesday, as lawmakers voted to approve Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed changes to a bill that will allow adults to possess and cultivate small amounts of the drug starting in July.
Northam sent the bill back to lawmakers substantially changed from the version that squeaked out of the General Assembly in February. The amendments lawmakers agreed to Wednesday would accelerate the timeline of legalization by about three years, well before retail sales would begin, a move that’s been cheered by racial justice advocates.
“The time has come for our state to legalize marijuana. The amendments ensure that while we’re doing the complicated work of standing up a commercial market, we aren’t delaying immediate reforms that will make our Commonwealth more equitable for all Virginians,” House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said in urging her colleagues to approve the governor’s changes.
Democrats said the bill was a matter of urgency, a necessary step to end what state