Southern Progress

      By Christian Denormandie


       The South has been seeing many progressive victories recently and the newest is the plan to legalize marijuana in Virginia. Virginia will be the first southern state to legalize marijuana, likely opening the floodgates for the historically conservative region of the United States. The Bill will legalize personal possession for those over 21 as soon as the summer of 2021, with a commercial market launch on January 1st, 2024. The large delay in the commercial market opening is due to both the House and the Senate calling to create the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority which will “control the possession, sale, transportation, distribution, and delivery of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products in the Commonwealth.” (§ 4.1-601) Even with the large delay in a commercial market, it is still a victory nonetheless, Senator Adam Ebbin stated “Progress takes time, It takes time to do things right. And, personally, I’d rather be able to get the votes to have a responsibly regulated adult-use market in 2024 than have no bill pass at all.” 

         Is this true progress at all or is it just a measure to generate revenue with our economy in shambles? The Marijuana Business Daily has estimated nine to eleven million dollars in dispensary sales in 2021. Marijuana sales would be taxed at 21 percent in addition to standard state sales tax and a local sales tax of up to 3 percent, so the question remains, is this progress or just a much-needed economic boost? Regardless of the reasoning behind this measure, it is long overdue. In 2002, 23,936 people were arrested on marijuana-related drug charges. This practice cost the state an estimated $1,650 per arrest, why should the state continue to waste money with this unnecessary practice? As the nation continues to progress with the legalization and decriminalization of drugs the American people have begun to realize how we have thrown taxpayer money at something so ridiculous. Not only have we continually wasted money on this problem but we have wasted people’s time and ruined the lives of the people charged. 

        This bill also provides for an automatic expungement process for those convicted of certain marijuana-related crimes to have such crimes automatically expunged by July 1, 2026. In an expungement, the records are no longer viewable to the public and can only be seen if the court gives permission. This is incredibly important as it provides people with better opportunities, jobs, school, or otherwise, that might have been impossible for them to achieve with this mark on their record. 

         While this bill and many more like it are often incredibly overdue, the victories are still important. This is still progress, no matter how long it takes. Whether the driving force behind it was a boost to the economy or not, the effects help so many people and will surely push more southern, historically conservative, states to do the same.