Yesterday, the Virginia Legislature took a huge sledgehammer to the federal war on cannabis by passing legalization and setting its official implementation date as July 1st. The former capital of the Confederacy officially became the 17th state to sweep prohibition into the dustbin of history, with more than 40% of our nation now living in legalized states.
Virginia and Oregon will share legalization anniversary days, with Old Dominion joining the Beaver State just six years after Measure 91 kicked into effect. The Virginia Mercury reported on the details of the law, which allows those of age to legally possess up to an ounce of cannabis:
Adults caught with more than an ounce but less than a pound will face a $25 fine. And adults caught with more than a pound can be charged with a felony punishable by between one and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
And while sales of the drug are illegal, the legislation permits gifting up to an ounce of the drug to any adult. (The provision explicitly prohibits transactions that have become common in Washington, D.C., where companies sell legal products at high prices that are delivered with what is described as a free gift of marijuana.)
People under the age of 21 caught with the drug face a $25 fine, but would also be required to enter a substance abuse treatment and education program.
Virginia moving forward should help advocates’ political lobbying in other southern states like Louisiana, where a recent poll showed overwhelming and growing support for ending prohibition, as WFAB reported:
A recent poll showed 67% of Louisiana voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis. That’s up from the 54% who favored it last year, which leaves lawmakers to face what they say is obvious.
“I think there’s a sense of inevitability of it too, that people figure this is coming and it’s probably better earlier than later if it’s coming,” said Louisiana Rep. Tanner Magee (R).
And it’s not just one party that’s leaning towards legalization. The poll done by JMC Enterprises showed that the majority of both Democrats and Republicans are in favor of giving legalization the green light. Right now in Louisiana, it’s legal to be prescribed cannabis but only in a concentrated form. Magee said his bill would expand those laws.
Cannabis legalization has passed step by step, state by state very similarly to the medical cannabis movement, with mostly initiative states moving first before states where advocates don’t have the luxury of taking the issue directly to the voters. Most southern states don’t allow the initiative process, so broad bipartisan support is necessary to force the hand of elected officials. Legislators and their constituents seeing that the sky doesn’t fall in Virginia, thousands of new jobs being created and millions of dollars in additional revenue generated, will only speed up the passage legalization laws throughout southern states. Each state then adds more federal representatives that are on the right side of history. Thank you, Virginia, this win will go down as one of the most important victories in our fight for freedom and equality.