In late February, we blogged about legislation passed by the Virginia General Assembly legalizing recreational marijuana. On March 31, 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam submitted a substitute bill to the Senate for consideration. See https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?212+sum+SB1406. The General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene Special Session I on April 7th, when it will consider the Governor’s marijuana proposal. Based on the press release, the Governor is asking for the changes below.
- Governor Northam is proposing two budget amendments. The first change immediately funds a public awareness campaign on the health and safety risks of marijuana. The other measure 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.
- Governor Northam’s amendments authorize the new Cannabis Control Authority to revoke a company’s business license if they interfere with union organizing efforts, fail to pay prevailing wage as defined by the United States Department of Labor, or classify more than 10 percent of employees as independent contractors.
- The Governor’s amendments allow adults to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis, without intent to distribute, beginning July 1, 2021. These amendments would maintain current public safety measures that prohibit smoking while driving, smoking while driving a school bus, and possession on school grounds, for example.
- Governor Northam’s amendments allow for expungement and sealing of criminal records on marijuana to begin as soon as state agencies are able to do so and simplify the criteria for when records can be sealed. The General Assembly passed broader legislation to implement comprehensive expungement reform beginning in 2025.
- The Governor’s changes will allow households to grow up to four plants beginning on July 1, 2021. The amendments would require the plants to be labeled with identification information, out of sight from public view, and out of range of individuals under the age of 21.
Observers say that the legislation is likely to be the subject of further negotiations in the Virginia General Assembly and, to that extent, this will remain a moving target for some time to come.