Ever since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana in 2012, cannabis-skeptical Republicans have controlled at least one chamber of the Virginia General Assembly.
In a few months, that could change. If Democrats win full control of the statehouse next month by gaining four seats, Virginia would enter unknown territory on marijuana policy, with new faces at the helm of legislative committees that have resisted sweeping change.
Even if power changes hands, supporters of marijuana reform say Virginia may still be years away from legalizing recreational use. But several Democrats said decriminalization — reducing the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil violation more akin to a traffic ticket — could be a near-term priority if their party wins control.
“I think we could do decriminalization in the first session and then get to work on a larger study about how and when we could move toward legal and regulated adult use,” said Attorney General Mark Herring (D), a legalization supporter who’s announced a run for governor in 2021. “Obviously we’d need to bring a lot of stakeholders together to do that. It’s a step that I think Virginians are ready for.” [Read more at Virginia Mercury]