Press Release

Virginia Legislature Approves Legislation to Legalize Cannabis; Bill Now Heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s Desk

Feb 27, 2021

Virginia Legislature Approves Legislation to Legalize Cannabis; Bill Now Heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s Desk

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Contact: Violet Cavendish

Richmond, VA — Today, bills that would legalize, regulate, and tax cannabis sales for adults 21 and over in Virginia — SB 1406/HB 2312 — received final approval from state legislators. They'll now proceed to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam, who has previously voiced his support for cannabis legalization. The governor could either sign the legislation or request amendments, which would then be considered by the legislature.

If the legislation is signed into law, Virginia would become the 16th state to legalize cannabis for adult use and the third state to adopt a legalization policy by passing a bill through its state legislature, joining Illinois and Vermont. Thirteen additional states have legalized by voter initiative. 

“Virginia legislators are proving that it is possible to work swiftly to pass legislation that would not only legalize cannabis, but also address the disproportionate harm caused by decades of prohibition,” said Steve Hawkins, MPP’s executive director. “Virginia is on the brink of becoming the 16th state to end cannabis prohibition and replace it with sensible legalization and regulation for adults 21 and over. MPP is proud to have played an important role in all three states where legislatures have voted to legalize cannabis — Vermont, Illinois, and now, Virginia.”

In addition to legalizing cannabis for adults 21 and over, SB 1406/HB 2312 would establish a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund that would be used to support persons, families, and communities that have been disproportionately affected by enforcement of cannabis laws. Legal possession would begin on January 1, 2024, as would legal sales.

You can find a summary of the bill here.

Virginia is also one of 36 states with a medical cannabis program, and in May 2020, Virginia decriminalized simple cannabis possession. 

At least seven other states legislatures are seriously considering legalization this year. New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Mexico, North Dakota, Maryland, and Delaware’s legislatures all have viable legalization efforts. A 2020 Gallup poll found 68% of Americans support legalization, while Civiqs’ polling shows majority or plurality support in every single state.

“It’s encouraging to see that legislators in so many states are embracing regulation as an alternative to failed prohibition policies,” said Matt Simon, MPP’s senior legislative analyst. “Virginia is the first state in the South to legalize cannabis, and we can be certain that others will follow as public support continues to grow.”


Founded in 1995, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the nation’s leading cannabis policy reform organization. MPP has played a central role in passing dozens of cannabis policy reforms in states across the country, including 14 successful cannabis legalization campaigns, and also works to advance federal reforms.

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