Virginia governor vows to press for adult-use marijuana program

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Virginia’s governor said he plans to push for legalizing an adult-use marijuana market during the 2021 state legislative session.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s comments came Monday, the Associated Press reported, on the heels of voters in New Jersey approving a referendum to develop a recreational market.

“Legalizing marijuana will happen in Virginia,” said Northam, a Democrat.

Democrats took the majority of both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly, which likely will make it easier for legalization to occur. But Northam noted the process could take up to two years.

New Jersey’s adult-use legalization is expected to put pressure on neighboring states as well as Mid-Atlantic markets such as Maryland and Virginia to similarly legalize in the near future.

States also are looking at legal marijuana markets as a way to increase their revenue in wake of the negative economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Northam previously supported decriminalizing marijuana but not legalizing a recreational marijuana market, according to reports.

But Monday he cited both racial justice issues and the public sentiment for legalization.

“As governor, I listen to people,” Northam said.

Virginia launched a limited medical cannabis market in October.