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POT FOR PROFIT: The push for legalization of marijuana in Virginia

Virginia is on the verge of becoming the first state in the South to legalize marijuana and while lawmakers are thinking green, some health advocates are seeing red.

Dan Kennedy

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Virginia will soon join 15 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing marijuana. The Commonwealth was once so conservative that progressive legislation seemed like pie in the sky.

But the political landscape is changing in Virginia and now, so are the laws.

The Democratic-controlled House and Senate decriminalized marijuana last year and those same lawmakers took it a step further this past weekend as they narrowly passed a bill to legalize marijuana in 2024.

Not a single Republican in either chamber voted in favor. Now, all that's left is for the Democratic Governor Ralph Northam to sign the bill into law. 

It's one he supports, although there is evidence he may not be completely satisfied with how it is written today. In a statement to 13News Now this week, his office said "there's still a lot of work ahead..." and that the governor "looks forward to continuing to improve this legislation."

So, it's possible he amends the bill which, as of today, would establish a regulatory agency this summer. It would legalize possession of pot up to an ounce beginning January 1, 2024. That's also when retail sales could begin and that means cannabis shops popping up on a street near you.

And yes: the product would be taxed, possibly raking in $300 million a year in tax revenue, according to one estimate.

But while lawmakers are thinking green, some health advocates are seeing red.

13News Now is investigating different angles of the debate in a special series called “Pot for Profit.”