Over the past decades, the criminalization of marijuana has destabilized countless American lives, especially those in the Black community. As the United States has progressed, laws across the country concerning marijuana have become increasingly disparate with some states completely legalizing and decriminalizing weed, others taking aggressive stances against the drug, and the rest of them meeting somewhere in the middle. On the West Coast, buying and smoking weed is harmless, but in the South, that could mean facing a hefty jail sentence.

Today, however, that dynamic has reportedly been slightly shifted. According to Complex, Virginia’s Democratic-controlled Legislature voted to approve Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed amendments to a bill that legalizes marijuana across the entire state.

As reported by Complex, Virginia’s ground-breaking weed legalization will go into effect on July 1, 2021, and the law will permit adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, each household to grow no more than four marijuana plants, and retail sales of cannabis to start in 2024. Although Virginia’s bill will not allow the public consumption of weed, its legalization bill leads the way in the South’s attitude toward marijuana.

Ahead of the Legislature’s vote, House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said, “The time has come for our state to legalize marijuana. The amendments ensure that while we’re doing the complicated work of standing up a commercial market, we aren’t delaying immediate reforms that will make our Commonwealth more equitable for all Virginians.”

This major legislation arrives nearly a year after the state’s Legislature agreed to “decriminalize” marijuana last summer. Stay tuned to see whether more Southern states follow Virginia’s lead.

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