Governor Northam has offered extensive amendments to HB 2312 (Herring)/SB 1406 (Ebbin), which would establish a path for legalization of marijuana in Virginia. The Governor’s amendments largely center around five key policy areas:
- Expedited Legalization: The Governor’s amendments speed up the legalization of personal possession of marijuana. While the legislation as passed by the General Assembly delayed legalization until 2024, the Governor has proposed allowing adults 21 years of age or older to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis beginning July 1, 2021, though commercialization will still be delayed.
- Home Cultivation: In addition to the expedited legalization of possession date, the Governor also proposed that the effective date for home cultivation be sped up as well. Under his proposed amendments, households would be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants beginning July 1, 2021. Such plants must be labeled with identification information, must remain out of sight from the public view, and must be out of range of individuals under the age of 21.
- Public Health Funding: The Governor has proposed two budget amendments relating to the marijuana legislation: the first funds public awareness campaigns on the health and safety risks of marijuana, and the second funds training to help law enforcement officers recognize and prevent drugged driving. These amendments also include explicit language directing ongoing support for public health education.
- Worker Protections: Under the Governor’s proposed amendments, pursuant to § 4.1-900 of the legislation, the new Cannabis Control Authority is authorized to revoke a company’s business license if it interferes with union organizing efforts, fails to pay a prevailing wage as defined by the United States Department of Labor, or classifies more than 10 percent of employees as independent contractors.
- Expedited Expungements and Sealing of Records: The Governor has proposed new language that seeks to speed up the process of expungements and sealing of criminal records on marijuana offenses. The language, found in § 19.2-392.1 and § 19.2-392.2, simplifies the criteria for the sealing of records and allows for expungements as soon as state agencies are logistically able to do so.
The General Assembly is set to reconvene on Wednesday, April 7 to consider and vote on the Governor’s proposed amendments. VACo will continue to monitor and report updates as necessary.
VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.