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Marijuana could be legal by July 1

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed moving the legalization of simple possession of marijuana up almost three years sooner than initially approved by the General Assembly.

On Wednesday, March 31, Northam announced the amendments to Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312, which could legalize adult-use marijuana in the commonwealth on July 1 of this year.

Gov. Ralph Northam

According to a press release, the change will allow adults to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana without intent to distribute.

Local resident Ingrid Minnix said she was glad to hear the announcement.

‘It’s about time,” Minnix said. “We need to get rid of the inmates in jail for that, and the government can put the money for more important things.”

Cheyenne Yates said she felt it should be legalized for recreational use, but the same laws should apply as they have for alcohol.

“Marijuana has a lot of benefits such as helping with pain, anxiety, depression, seizures and cancer,” Yates said.

The new law would prohibit smoking while driving, including operating a school bus, and possession on school grounds.

The amendments would also allow households to grow up to four marijuana plants beginning July 1 as long as the plants are labeled with identification information, they are out of sight from public view and are out of range of individuals under the age of 21.

“I think whoever drafted this really doesn’t understand just how much usable product a mature plant can produce with even amateur levels of horticultural knowledge,” Morgan Copenhaver said. “Exceeding the limit of 1 ounce would be trivial with a single plant, let alone four.

“It’s nice we’re making very, very tiny steps in the right direction, but this also needs to bring prison release and record expungements with it. Otherwise, it’s a slap in the face to everyone incarcerated for marijuana.”