Virginia legislators voted Wednesday to amend the state’s bill to legalize marijuana, making possession of the drug legal as soon as this summer.
The bill to legalize the sale and recreational use of marijuana originally passed in February, but would not have been enacted until 2024. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam urged lawmakers to amend the bill to move up the timeline of legalization, citing a need to correct the over policing of Black Virginians in possession crimes.
“Today, Virginia can make history as the first state in the South to legalize the simple possession of marijuana—and restore justice to those harmed by decades of over criminalization,” Northam said Wednesday before the vote. “I urge the General Assembly to adopt my amendments and make this happen.”
The state’s lower chamber voted 53 to 44 in favor of Northam’s suggestion and reached a 20-20 deadlock in the senate. Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax cast a vote in favor of the bill to break the tie.
Northam is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
Retail marijuana dispensaries wouldn't begin until 2024 as originally passed in February, but the legislation would allow possession of up to an ounce of marijuana as soon as July.