GATE CITY, Va. (WJHL) – During his State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam urged the General Assembly to legalize recreational marijuana. Southwest Virginia Delegate Terry Kilgore said he does not think that is a good idea.
In 2020, Northam signed a bill into law decriminalizing marijuana. This, Kilgore said, sent the wrong message.
“I did not support the decriminalization because I thought it sent a bad message, but now that’s the law as it is today, so of course now possession of certain amounts of marijuana is just a civil penalty and that is already the law in Virginia and courts are dealing with that particular issue,” Kilgore told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.
Kilgore added that he does not plan on supporting legalization of cannabis either, but he predicts that the measure will pass through the Virginia General Assembly without trouble.
“I’m not going to be voting for full, you know, recreational use of marijuana legalization. I know the governor has a plan to put this forward by 2023 and have legalization for recreational use, you know, but we have to be realistic with the progressives control of both the House and the Senate in Virginia is probably going to pass,” he said.
In 2021, the Virginia General Assembly will face talks of legalizing recreational use of the drug on the behest of Gov. Northam.
“It’s time to join 16 other states and make marijuana legal,” Northam said during his State of the Commonwealth Address on Wednesday. “Marijuana has become a cash crop that rivals tobacco even right here in Virginia, but as an illegal crop, it makes no money for Virginia. By legalizing and taxing it, we can use the revenue to help communities most disproportionately impacted by the inequities in our laws.”
Del. Kilgore added that however much is made in tax revenue from marijuana sales, should be wisely spent.
“You know, I think it’s going to be everybody’s going to have to come from both parties, bipartisan, to try to figure out if it passes on for the money spent. It ought to be spent on things that matter like broadband, you know, making sure we have better broadband capacity across Virginia, you know, K through 12 education, higher education things that are important. If we’re going to have this new money coming into the Commonwealth we need to make sure it’s not wasted on you know just bureaucracy so we need to make sure that we have a focus on where the money’s going and have a plan on how it’s going to be spent,” he said.
Kilgore told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that this legislation could be voted on as soon as February.
“So, what we have to do, as legislators, I think, is to make sure that if it’s going to happen that we set up the criteria for how the money’s going to be spent, that we set up, you know, what, to who, which government or agency actually will be governing the sale of recreational use of marijuana. So we, we have a lot of work to do between now and 2023 to make sure that we get it right. How we get it right, is we’re going to have to look at what other states, like Colorado, other states like, you know, some of the Western States California, Oregon, and look at some of the mistakes they made so we made sure that we don’t make those same mistakes,” he explained.
The proposed legislation will allow those over the age of 21 to purchase and possess an ounce of marijuana at a time. The state will also charge, among others, a 21% tax on cannabis sales.
“Then they will set up some type of framework to for that, whether that’s through the Crime Commission they’ll set up some commission to actually oversee how you go from non-recreational use to recreational use who’s going to be able to sell, who’s going to be able to manufacture, i.e. grow the marijuana for sale. So there’s a lot that has to be done between now and 2023. But the first step will be passing legislation which I’m sure that they will have the votes to pass that legislation, I mean it’s gonna be closer than the simple majorities they have now but because I suspect a few democrats will not vote for it, but you know there’s gonna be a lot of work. Over the next two years to make sure that you get from point A to point B,” Kilgore added.
View the full proposal here:
When it comes to the state tax on cannabis sales, Kilgore explained that Virginia state economists will have to do their homework.
“But you know we’ve got to make sure that we have the right forecast, the right economic forecasts, and make sure you know some of the other states were wrong on what they forecast, what their forecast was on how much actually legalization of marijuana would bring into the state coffers so we got to be very, very, very cautious on not to spend money we don’t have yet. So, that’s going to be, that’s going to be interesting so we’re going to have to you know make sure that our economist who work for the Commonwealth of Virginia makes sure that they really are, you know, that they really make, they really understand how much is going to be out there, how much is going to be sold, where it’s going to be sold how many of these, I guess retail operations, you’re going to have and, and actually, are there farmers out there that are actually want to grow it so you know there’s a lot to be done between now and 2023 as you can see,” he said.