When the clock struck midnight to mark the start of Thursday, history was made—marijuana legalization had finally arrived in the southern United States.
As of July 1, adults 21 years and older in the Commonwealth of Virginia can legally use and possess marijuana. The new law stems from legislation that passed in the Virginia legislature back in April and was promptly signed by the state’s Democratic governor, Ralph Northam.
The law makes Virginia the first southern state to end the prohibition on recreational pot use.
It initially appeared that Virginians would have to wait years for the new law to effect, but the timeline was expedited at Northam’s urging. The state-regulated marijuana market, however, will not open for business until January 1, 2024.
According to local television station WSET, state lawmakers will tackle “the rules for growing and selling marijuana” as well as enforcement of the new law when they reconvene for next year’s legislative session.
After signing the legislation in the spring, Northam characterized it as part of an effort toward “building a more equitable and just Virginia and reforming our criminal justice system to make it more fair.”
“What this really means is that people will no longer be arrested or face penalties for