Republican U.S. Congressman Bob Good has written a letter to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam urging him to veto a recreational marijuana legalization bill passed by state lawmakers last month. The Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates agreed on a compromise bill to legalize cannabis for use by adults and to regulate marijuana production and sales on February 27.
In a letter to the Democratic governor written by Good last week, the representative for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District exhorted Northam not to sign the legalization bill, HB 2312, into law.
“Legalizing recreational use of marijuana, even if limited to adults, would expose our future generations to drug use at young impressionable ages,” said Good. “It is my hope that the Governor will not move forward with this legislation and will instead acknowledge that the many negative consequences far outweigh any potential positive revenue for the Commonwealth.”
In his letter, Good said that the cannabis legalization bill would “undermine the rule of law,” noting that marijuana remains a Schedule l substance under federal statute.
“Accordingly, no state has the jurisdiction to legalize recreational use of marijuana without Congressionally enacted reform or the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) taking administrative action to reschedule it,” he wrote. “As recent as 2016, the DEA has reviewed and determined that under its judgment marijuana should remain a Schedule I substance.”
Good cited concerns that the legalization of cannabis would pose a danger to children and repeated debunked assertions that marijuana is a “gateway drug” to more dangerous illicit substances. He also expressed doubts that a regulated marijuana economy would generate as much tax revenue as projections predict.
Bill To Go Into Effect In 2024
Under HB 2312, possession of up to one ounce of cannabis by adults would become legal beginning on January 1, 2024. At the same time, regulations allowing for retail marijuana sales would also go into effect.
“It’s been a lot of work to get here, but I would say that we’re on the path to an equitable law allowing responsible adults to use cannabis,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, the lead sponsor of the Senate’s version of the bill.
House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said that while she does not believe that the legislation is perfect, the measure is a “justice bill” that would address the racial inequities in the enforcement of Virginia’s drug laws.
“This moves us in a … direction to strike down and to address those institutional barriers, and over-policing, over-arrests, over-convictions of African Americans who do not use marijuana at a higher rate than our white counterparts, but we seem to get the brunt of criminal convictions,” Herring said.
But other Democrats, including Sen. Jennifer McClellan, believe that the legalization of marijuana possession should go into effect long before 2024. They are hoping that Northam, who has been a vocal supporter of cannabis policy reform, will return the bill to lawmakers with amendments.
“If we have already made the decision that simple possession should be repealed, we could have done that today and ended the disproportionate fines on communities of color,” McClellan said.
“Let’s be absolutely clear — this bill is not legalization, and there are a lot of steps between here and legalization,” she added.
Further tweaking of the bill may be just what Northam has in mind. His spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said the governor “looks forward to continuing to improve this legislation.”
“There’s still a lot of work ahead, but this bill will help to reinvest in our communities and reduce inequities in our criminal justice system,” she said.