LYNCHBURG, Va. – Governor Ralph Northam cited racial equity as one reason he’s supporting the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“Whites and people of color are using marijuana at the same rates, but people of color are three times more likely to be arrested and convicted,” Northam said.
The governor plans on introducing legislation when the General Assembly convenes in January.
But Central Virginia Delegate Wendell Walker hopes the legislation goes up in smoke.
“Certainly he won’t count on me as being one of his supporters there. But I think it is important that we listen to people,” said Walker, who represents the 23rd district.
While Walker supported legislation for medical marijuana, he calls marijuana a gateway drug.
“This is another form of drugs that lead to harder drugs, which then lead to the destruction of life.”
But others support the governor’s decision.
Jenn Michelle Pedini is with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and executive director of Virginia’s chapter for the advocacy group NORML.
“Legalization is what provides for public and consumer safety through regulatory mandates, licensing, and transparency,” said Pedini.
“Just because other states are doing it doesn’t mean that Virginia has to do it,” Walker added.
“Let’s be clear: legalization neither normalizes nor brings the marijuana market to Virginia. It’s already here,” Pedini said.
While Pedini says legalization could bring millions of dollars of tax revenue to the Commonwealth, Walker suggests finding others ways help with costs.