Marijuana Policy Project
Curved Papers

Virginia Governor Northam Calls for Marijuana Legalization

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam with mask; he and his wife Pam were diagnosed with Covid-19 in September.

Only a few short years ago, Virginia was a red state where a marijuana offense could get you sent to the penitentiary. Under Democratic leadership, the legislature passed a decrim bill this year, which Governor Ralph Northam signed. Now the governor wants to take matters a big step further.

On November 16, he stated in a press release: 

“It’s time to legalize marijuana in Virginia. Our Commonwealth has an opportunity to be the first state in the South to take this step, and we will lead with a focus on equity, public health and public safety. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to get this right.”

Here are Northam's five main areas of concern:

Social equity, racial equity and economic equjity: "Black Virginians are arrested and convicted for marijuana use at more than three times the rate of white Virginians."

Public health: "Legislation should include substance abuse prevention efforts."

Protections for young people: "Including age limits, mandatory ID checks and education campaigns."

Upholding the Virginia Indoor Clear Air Act: "Legislation should be aligned with the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act prohibiting indoor tobacco use." 

Data collection: "Ensure Virginia collects appropriate and ongoing information on safety, health and equity."

Legislation will be proposed in the 2021 General Assembly session.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf also favors legalization. However, his state has yet to pass decriminalization and is run by a Republican legislature.

On Election Day, four states voted to legalize recreational marijuana, upping the total to 15.

The 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook photo in which Ralph Northam allegedly wore blackface.

When Gov. Northan Allegedly Wore Blackfacce

Not to be forgotten in the cannabis smoke is Gov. Northam's unfortunate blackface episodes. In 2019, a photo of two people, one in blackface, the other wearing a KKK hood, from Northan's 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook (see above) was unearthed. Since it appeared on Northan's page, it was assumed he was either person.

"Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive," he initially stated. "I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now."

But then Northan decided it wasn't him wearing blackface in the photo after all, even though he did admit putting on shoe polish to imitate Michael Jackson on another occasion. He was also referred to by the nickname "Coon" in the yearbook.

Despite calls for him to resign, Northam remained governor. 

Now he wants to legalize marijuana. Go figure.


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.