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Virginia becomes first Southern state to legalize marijuana

The General Assembly approved proposed changes to a marijuana legalization bill that will allow limited possession and cultivation of the drug beginning in July.

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia has become the first Southern state to legalize marijuana.

Lawmakers voted Wednesday to approve Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed changes to a bill to allow adults in Virginia to possess and cultivate small amounts starting in July. 

Northam sent the bill back to lawmakers substantially changed from the version they sent him in February. The amendments lawmakers agreed to Wednesday would accelerate the timeline of legalization by about three years, a move that's been cheered by racial justice advocates. 

Northam's amendments cleared the House of Delegates 53-44 with two abstentions. The Senate later voted 20-20 and Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax broke the tie, voting to approve them.

It will be years before legal retail sales follow legalized possession. The legislation lays out a complex process of creating a new state agency to oversee the marijuana marketplace, with sales beginning in 2024.

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