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Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration on Wednesday unveiled legislation to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Virginia, proposing a 21% state tax on the drug and a licensing program meant to ease entry for people harmed by the disparate enforcement of marijuana laws.

Following years of activism by civil rights groups, Northam threw his support behind legalization in November, hailing it as a step forward for racial equity and a profitable endeavor for the state, which would become the first in the South to legalize the drug.

The measure faces good odds in Virginia’s legislature, illustrating the stark changes that have come with Democrats’ sweeping control of state government. The hallmark legislation will be formally introduced by two of the most powerful Democrats in the legislature: House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Del. Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth, will also sponsor the proposal.

“Equitable marijuana legalization is an important step towards justice in the commonwealth,” Herring said. “For far too long, marijuana laws have targeted Black and brown communities and enough is enough.” [Read more at Richmond Times-Dispatch]

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