When the General Assembly convenes in January, a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Virginia will face its first real test in the House vote. I can tell you that I think there is a good chance that it could succeed, but at least for the moment, it looks as if it will be over.
If Virginia lawmakers move forward, the state would be the first in the South to allow recreational use of the drug. Virginia's move comes as voters in four states overwhelmingly approved referendums to legalize marijuana, bringing the total number of statewide marijuana users to 15.
Virginia has softened its stance on marijuana in recent years, allowing medical use of CBD for the first time in 2017, extending the program to full-fledged medical marijuana by 2019, and passing a law earlier this year that reduces the maximum penalty to $25 for people caught with small amounts of the drug.
But efforts to fully legalize and regulate adult drug use have not made it through the General Assembly, though public opinion has quickly shifted in favor of the measure. The result is not surprising when Republicans control both the House and Senate, both of which oppose any effort to expand access to the drug.
Democrats, who abandoned Prohibition last year with majorities in the House and Senate, were disappointed when they dismissed their colleagues for their support of decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana in their first term. Democrats have called for decriminalization and legalization as part of a broader effort to end the practice of prosecuting blacks in Virginia, even though studies have shown that they use the drug less than their white counterparts.