For marijuana advocates, last night's elections were seen as a major victory because the newly elected New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has promised to legalize marijuana within the first 100 days of his administration. But cannabis earned another victory in the other major governor race from last night in Virginia.
Virginia voters elected current Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam to the Governor's office last night. Unlike New Jersey, where Murphy was predicted to win by a landslide in nearly every poll, the Virginia race was seen as a closer race that could go either way. But Northam's win is good news for cannabis fans, although not nearly as much as in New Jersey.
During his campaign, Northam promised to decriminalize marijuana if elected governor. He often used criminal justice statistics to back up his argument, pointing out the hugely disproportionate arrest rates between black and white citizens in Virginia.
Decriminalizing marijuana would be a good step toward helping to correct systematic racism in our justice system. https://t.co/5R7YxBJi10— Ralph Northam (@RalphNortham) July 27, 2017
African Americans are 2.8x more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people. Marijuana decriminalization is a racial justice issue pic.twitter.com/kmKiWul1pE— Ralph Northam (@RalphNortham) April 5, 2017
Current marijuana laws are costly and hurt communities of color. That’s why I believe in decriminalizing it. https://t.co/tVYs3hpwX0— Ralph Northam (@RalphNortham) August 9, 2017
An attempt to decriminalize marijuana in Virginia failed back in 2015, but Northam's election might spur action in that area.
Northam has also touted medical marijuana in several interviews he's given. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he discussed how many studies show the medicinal benefits of marijuana and how he hopes decriminalizing the drug will allow for greater research into the drug.
Virginia currently allows medical marijuana for very few conditions. From what Northam's said on the subject, it sounds like that list of qualifications could expand greatly.
While Northam hasn't outright said he's against legalizing marijuana recreationally, it definitely seems like he's saying all the right things otherwise. And Virginia is a more conservative state than New Jersey, so it's possible he's going to take baby steps by decriminalizing and expanding medically before pushing for recreational.
Either way, another marijuana ally has assumed a major role in government. And that's something to celebrate.
(h/t Marijuana Moment)