|RICHMOND (July 1, 2021) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring issued the below statement following marijuana legalization going into effect in Virginia today. In April, the General Assembly passed an amendment that moved the effective date of the legalization of small amounts of marijuana up to July 1, 2021.
“Today is an important day in the Commonwealth’s ongoing criminal justice reform journey. Last year, Virginia decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana – an important first step – but we could not let up until we had full legalization,” said Attorney General Herring. “For too long, Virginia’s marijuana policies were not working, and they were disproportionately affecting Black and brown Virginians, saddling them with criminal records that could negatively affect almost every aspect of their lives. Now, with the legalization of small amounts of marijuana, Black communities and communities of color will no longer feel the disparate impacts of our old, outdated policies.
“I am so proud I played a role in reforming Virginia’s marijuana policies and getting us on a path towards legalization and I want to thank all the advocates and partners who were integral in getting this important endeavor passed.”
According to 2020 data, more than half of all marijuana-related charges in Virginia, at least 2,397, were against Black Virginians, while Black Virginians only make up about 20 percent of the Commonwealth’s population.
During the 2021 General Assembly Session, Attorney General Herring helped successfully move Virginia towards legal, regulated adult use of cannabis, after he become the leader on cannabis reform in Virginia following his call for decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, action to address past convictions, and a move towards legal and regulated adult use. In his call for cannabis reform, he cited the unnecessary negative impact of a criminal conviction for possession, the expense and social costs of enforcing the current system, and the disparate impact on African Americans and people and communities of color. Attorney General Herring reiterated his call for reform when data from 2018 showed a record number of arrests for marijuana possession. In December 2019, Attorney General Herring held a cannabis summit for policymaking stakeholders in Virginia that focused on policy and included experts from attorneys generals’ offices, state agencies and legislative operations in states that have legalized cannabis, as well as cannabis policy experts.