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As the 2020 election season moves further into the rear view, the sweeping victories for marijuana related legislation throughout the United States seem to be an indication of more to come. In recent weeks, this notion has been bolstered by two new states seeing marijuana legalization signed into law. New Jersey had their recently passed recreational marijuana legislation signed into law and Virginia lawmakers voted to make it the first southern state with a legal recreational marijuana program. 

New Jersey Recreational Marijuana Legalization

Back in November, New Jersey voters passed Public Question 1, which legalized the possession and use of marijuana for individuals over the age of 21. On Monday February 22nd, Democrat Governor Phil Murphy signed Public Question 1 into law as well as a few other bills which would remove penalties for small levels of possession and create a regulated market for marijuana. About Public Question 1’s process from ballot measure to law, Gov. Murphy said, “(This process) is ending in the right place,” he continued, “I firmly believe, this process has ended in laws that will serve as a national model.”

Though not necessarily at the forefront of the progressive marijuana legalization movement to this point, New Jersey had previously enacted a medical marijuana program back in 2012. The development and implementation of a legal and regulated recreational marijuana program in the state will hopefully, as Governor Murphy says, be a model for numerous other states in the U.S. 

Virginia Recreational Marijuana Legalization

On Saturday February 27th, 2021, Virginia lawmakers voted 48-43 in the House and 20-19 in the Senate to legalize the use and possession of cannabis for individuals over the age of 21 beginning in 2024. According to NPR, “The law would also allow possession of up to an ounce by anyone over 21 and establishes a state agency to oversee regulation of the cannabis market.”

The Virginia recreational marijuana bill also establishes a 30% tax on all marijuana revenue that will be put towards communities where there has been historic over-enforcement of marijuana related offenses. The passed legislation will now go to Governor Ralph Northam who is expected to sign them into law. With none of this legislation set to take effect until 2024, legislators and regulators will have some time to refine regulations with the hopes of creating a legal marijuana program that works for all Virginians. 

What to Expect Moving Forward

As of now, 12 states have recreational marijuana legalization measures up for potential passage in 2021. Though the number will likely be cut in half as bills are nixed from the docket, it is clear that New Jersey and Virginia will not be the only states to pursue recreational legalization in 2021.

It seems as though the tip of the marijuana legalization iceberg in the United States has long since passed. There is likely now to be a flood of states legalizing marijuana in the coming years. This progression of marijuana legislation should be welcomed by a nation that is rising from the ashes of a decades long war on drugs. 

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