Gov. Northam releases report on legalizing marijuana, local lawmaker plans to file bill for legal adult-use cannabis

Posted at 8:49 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 22:20:54-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has rolled out his support of legalizing adult-use marijuana in the Commonwealth.

This week, Northam released his administration's report detailing the impacts of legalizing adult-use cannabis.

“We want to make sure that we're thoughtful, that we don't rush any decisions,” Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring told News 3.

The report, nearly 400 pages, outlines aspects of legalization.

“It could have significant economic impact,” Ring said. “There are economic opportunities for farmers and producers [and] for businesses, small and large.”

For example, the report states a legal adult-use marijuana industry could be worth $698 million to $1.2 billion yearly in economic activity.

“We also know it's a crop that we have to be very thoughtful about how we regulate the industry,” Ring said. “It will take about five years for this industry to mature, and we anticipate it will take about 18-24 months to get a program up and running.”

Ring added equity is vital.

“Making sure that smaller farmers, minority farmers, producers, businesses have an opportunity to be able to have licenses to grow to be part of that industry,” she said.

Del. Stephen Heretick, representing Virginia’s 79th district, has drawn up cannabis bills in the past.

“If people choose to use it, it needs to be a product that's safe, that's legal,” Heretick told News 3.

Now, he’s working on a bill related to legal adult-use pot in Virginia. He told News 3 he’s planning to file the bill within the next two weeks.

“I call this bill essentially a 'seed-to-sale' bill,” he said. “We're trying to make it a Virginia-centric business. My legislation would require that any business that's going to be growing it, harvesting it, analyzing it, selling it all has to be Virginia-owned businesses."

Meanwhile, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police oppose the idea of legal adult-use marijuana, citing concerns including impaired driving and impact on youth.

“Impaired driving leads to traffic crashes, which leads to fatalities and serious injuries and increases in our insurance costs,” Executive Director Dana Schrad said.

Schrad said it’s important local law enforcement voices are heard.

“Those are the boots on the ground that see the impact of drug trafficking, of marijuana impairment in driving and some of the things we think are going to be great concerns to public safety,” she said.

Ring told News 3 their goal is to make sure all voices are heard in the process.

“We want to make sure that safety is first and foremost,” Ring said. “We want to ensure that we're very careful about impaired driving.”