RICHMOND, Va. -- A work group tasked with studying the impact of legalizing marijuana in Virginia, released their recommendations in report Monday.
The Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group consisted of community leaders, healthcare professionals, policy experts, and member's of Northam's administration.
The group was formed at the request of legislators as a key part of marijuana decriminalization legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year.
The report also comes two weeks after Northam announced he would push to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Virginia.
“We will advance new laws to make sure that our Commonwealth legalizes marijuana the right way,” said Northam. “Virginia has studied the experience of other states and this report lays out a path forward that leads with social equity, public health, and public safety.”
The near 400-page report outlines various aspects of marijuana legalization, including taxation, banking, criminal justice, licensing and regulation, and consumer safety.
The work group also offered recommendations and details on the five key principles that Northam wants to see in any final legalization bill:
- Social equity, racial equity, and economic equity. Marijuana prohibition historically has been based in discrimination, and criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed minority communities. Legislation should focus on undoing these harms by including initiatives such as social equity license programs, access to capital, community reinvestment, and sealing or expunging records of past marijuana-related convictions.
- Public health. Legislation should include substance abuse prevention efforts in schools and communities.
- Protections for young people. As a pediatrician, Governor Northam will require any legislation include protections for Virginia’s youth, including age limits, mandatory ID checks, and education campaigns.
- Upholding the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. Legislation should be aligned with the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act prohibiting indoor tobacco use, which Governor Northam championed as a state Senator.
- Data collection. Legislation should ensure Virginia collects appropriate and ongoing information on safety, health, and equity.
The report comes after a legislative report showed that the average arrest rate of Black Virginians in recent years for marijuana possession was 3.5 times higher than the arrest rate for whites.
The report also comes as marijuana has become more broadly accepted throughout the United States. In the most recent election, measures to legalize recreational pot passed in progressive New Jersey, moderate Arizona and conservative Montana and South Dakota. Fifteen states have now broadly legalized it, while 36 states allow medical marijuana.
If Virginia legalizes marijuana for recreational, it would become the first Southern state to do so.