Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) announced Monday that he supports legalizing marijuana use in the state and is “committed to doing it the right way.”
“We are going to move forward with the legalization of marijuana in Virginia,” he said during a press briefing, the Hill reported.
Northam’s administration is preparing to release a report on the impact of legalizing adult-use marijuana compiled with input from government officials, policy experts, healthcare professionals, and community leaders, according to a news release.
“Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to be the first state in the South to take this step, and we will lead with a focus on equity, public health, and public safety,” the governor said.
Northam added that legislation to legalize marijuana needs to address five principles that include social, racial, and economic equity; public health; protections for young people; upholding the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act; and data collection.
“In 2020, Governor Northam signed legislation that decriminalized simple marijuana possession in Virginia,” the release said.
The governor’s announcement came as state analysts presented a study regarding the potential impacts of legalization in Virginia and things lawmakers should consider as they move forward, according to the Virginia Mercury:
The Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission study found that legalization could generate more than $300 million per year in tax revenues by the fifth year of operations while reducing marijuana arrests by 84 percent. Legalization could also create more than 11,000 jobs, the study found, but most would be lower-paying positions in retail, cultivation, packaging and security.
“If Virginia chooses to legalize adult use of marijuana, it would likely take at least two years to put a regulatory structure in place and begin licensing companies to operate in the state, according to the study,” the report continued.
Virginia health secretary Daniel Carey said Monday that the goal was not to encourage use, but to “make sure adults are making informed decisions.”