On Monday, November 30, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam released “Report to the Virginia General Assembly and Governor of Virginia: Impact on the Commonwealth of Legalizing the Sale and Personal Use of Marijuana,” the Virginia Legalization Workgroup’s nearly 500-page report on how to go about legalizing cannabis in the state.
The report had to be completed as per language in Virginia decriminalization bill and makes 20 specific recommendations for legalizing cannabis for recreational, adult use. Those recommendations, which are described in detail in the report, pertain to regulatory structure, industry structure, licensing structure, taxation, other regulatory structural considerations, banking, social equity, local control, product regulation, personal cultivation, impaired driving, impairment and employment, health impacts, consumer education and product safety, THC levels, cannabis use disorder, youth impacts, prevention and education, health equity, and clean indoor air act.
There is a lot of unpack in the report, but there are a few notable details worth exploring. The report for example does directly handle issues of equity and cannabis in Virginia under its social equity recommendation: “Virginia should consider that undoing the harms of criminalization should include expungement or sealing of criminal records, creation and issuance of social equity licenses, assistance with access to capital and business planning, consideration of how the entire regulatory scheme could affect barriers to entry into the industry, and community reinvestment and monitoring with a disparity report,” the report reads.
In terms of economic impacts, the report says that “a legal adult-use marijuana industry could be worth $698 million to $1.2 billion annually in economic activity and up to $274 million in tax revenues per year at industry maturation.”
With the release of the report to the public, Governor Northam also released a brief statement that suggests that the report will be a guide to how cannabis will be legalized in Virginia rather than if cannabis will be legalized. The report itself goes out of its way to say it is not recommending whether or not to legalize cannabis but recommending how to do it should Virginia decide to do so.
“The purpose of this report is not to recommend to either the Governor or the General Assembly whether or not the Commonwealth should take legislative action to legalize marijuana,” the report said.
“We will advance new laws to make sure that our Commonwealth legalizes marijuana the right way,” Northam said in a statement. “Virginia has studied the experience of other states and this report lays out a path forward that leads with social equity, public health, and public safety.”
The report is a fascinating document of the workgroup over the years, with pages of slides, graphs, images, and more detailing how the workgroup arrived at its conclusions in the appendices. And it could be a useful model for how future states—especially states in the South—approach legalization.
You can read the full report here.
Image by Lukasz Stefanski / via Shutterstock