Democratic Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia signed a bill to legalize cannabis on Wednesday, marking the first time a state in the South has approved the use and sale of recreational marijuana for adults. The measure moves up the legalization of simple possession of cannabis to July 1, two years earlier than legislation originally approved by lawmakers in February.

The governor said that the legislation is a “milestone” for the state and called it a step toward “building a more equitable and just Virginia and reforming our criminal justice system to make it more fair.”

“What this really means is that people will no longer be arrested or face penalties for simple possession that follow them and affect their lives,” Governor Ralph Northam said during a press conference with activists and state lawmakers that was streamed live on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon. “We know that marijuana laws in Virginia and throughout this country have been disproportionately enforced against communities of color and low-income Virginians.”

Beginning on July 1, 2021, adults 21 and older will be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Adults will also be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants at home, but only in a location

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