Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has announced plans to introduce an adult-use cannabis legalization bill when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, according to The Virginia Mercury.
Northam signed a decriminalization bill in May to reclassify the possession of one ounce or less of cannabis to a civil penalty punishable by a maximum fine of $25, and the General Assembly passed legislation last month to prohibit police stops based on cannabis odor.
Northam’s most recent push for cannabis policy reform is in response to a Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission study on the potential impacts of legalization in the state, The Virginia Mercury reported.
The study revealed that adult-use cannabis legalization could generate more than $300 million in annual tax revenues by the fifth year of the program, according to the news outlet, as well as reduce cannabis-related arrests by 84% when combined with decriminalization. The study also found that legalization could create more than 11,000 jobs in the state.
Also outlined in the study were ways policymakers could promote social equity, such as prioritizing minority entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, according to The Virginia Mercury.
Lawmakers in the House of Delegates have indicated that legislation to legalize cannabis would likely pass that chamber, while Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said the issue would have “slightly better than 50-50 odds,” the news outlet reported.