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Legalization: Here Are the 3 States Where It Just Kicked In

Connecticut, South Dakota, and Virginia all had new marijuana legalization laws kick on July 1. Here are the changes

Marijuana Policy Project

Thanks to Cannabis policy organization, the Marijuana Policy Project, we now have a quick overview of the three states where marijuana legalization just became effective.

MPP has played a central role in passing over two dozen state-level medical cannabis and adult-use Cannabis legalization laws across the country. On Thursday, the group held a virtual press conference to provide information about new policies which took effect July 1 in Connecticut, South Dakota, and Virginia.

Virginia and Connecticut are two of the four states to legalize cannabis legislatively this year, along with New York and New Mexico. The total number of adult-use legalization states is now 19. This includes South Dakota. Legalization has been temporarily invalidated there pending a decision from the South Dakota Supreme Court.

‘Heed the Cry of Their Voters’

“While we cheer the newfound freedoms that today brings, we are appalled that hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to be arrested each year for cannabis,” said Steven Hawkins, MPP’s executive director. “Tonight, thousands of Americans will sleep behind bars, away from their families, over a plant that is safer than alcohol.

“As we applaud Virginia and Connecticut’s progress, we call on the states that have not yet acted to heed the cry of their voters,” Hawkins said. “It’s past time every state and the federal government replace marijuana prohibition with equitable legalization and regulation.”

“As states legalize at an unprecedented rate, MPP will continue to encourage restorative justice and economic opportunity for communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition,” said Tahoe Johnson, MPP’s director of social equity and inclusion. “We’ll use our platforms to promote policies that mitigate the harms of mass incarceration and collateral consequences arising from marijuana convictions.

“We must continue the momentum from recently legalized states — like Connecticut, Virginia, and New York — whose new laws include social equity provisions to ensure that the individuals, families, and communities upended by the criminalization of cannabis reap the health and economic benefits of the growing industry as we work toward federal legalization,” Johnson said.

Connecticut Legalization

Starting July 1, Connecticut adults 21 and older can possess up to one and a half ounces of Cannabis on their person. Up to five ounces is legal in a locked trunk or secured at their home. Legal sales will likely begin by May 2022. Adults can securely cultivate marijuana at home starting July 1, 2023. A full summary of the Connecticut law is available here.

“Today marks the end of a multi-year fight for equitable cannabis reform and the start of the work to dismantle the effects of the devastating war on cannabis in Connecticut,” said DeVaughn Ward, MPP’s senior legislative counsel.

The law allows those convicted of cannabis offenses to erase their records at no cost and have a clean slate.

South Dakota Medical Marijuana

Starting July 1, medical marijuana patients who comply with specific requirements can possess up to three ounces of Cannabis. The state now has until November 18 of this year to begin issuing medical marijuana patient ID cards. The next deadline, that one for promulgating rules for businesses, is October 29, 2021. The South Dakota Department of Health is responsible for implementing that policy.

South Dakota had some of the harshest Cannabis laws in the country, pointed out Matthew Schweich, MPP deputy director. But now it’s “the first state ever to adopt medical Cannabis and adult-use legalization laws at the same time.”

Schweich was one of the leaders of the 2020 South Dakota campaign.

The fate of the adult-use legalization law is unknown due to a lawsuit spearheaded by Governor Noem, Schweich said. But “medical cannabis patients in South Dakota will now be protected from unjust arrests and prosecutions.”

Virginia Legalization

Starting July 1, Virginia adults can legally possess up to one ounce of Cannabis. They can cultivate up to four marijuana plants at their primary residence. Legal sales will begin no earlier than January 1, 2024. A full summary of the law is available here.

“Today, Virginia became the first state in the South where adults can legally possess and grow marijuana,” said Karen O’Keefe. O’Keefe is MPP’s director of state policies. Virginia’s legalization law will include also have provisions to repair some of the harms done by the war on cannabis.

Automatically sealing low-level past cannabis offenses is one of those provisions. Another provision creates a social equity program. This program will help ensure those hardest hit by the war on Cannabis can participate in the legal marijuana industry. Yet another provision donates 30% of tax proceeds to a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund.

A recording of the Marijuana Policy Project press conference is available here.