Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring tweeted his support for recreational marijuana legalization this week.

Herring was responding to a University of Mary Washington poll that suggested 61% of Virginians now favour the legalization of adult-use cannabis. The university polled Virginians on the same issue two years ago and found that 31% were in favour of a legal market for recreational marijuana, so support has spiked dramatically since 2017.

“Virginians know we can do better,” Herring tweeted. “It’s time to move toward legal, regulated adult use.”

Just 34% of Virginians now oppose recreational marijuana legalization, according to the University of Mary Washington’s survey. It interviewed 1,009 adults across the state over the phone during September 2019 to gauge views on cannabis.

There were clear divides based on politics and ethnicity. Seventy-two percent of Democrat supporters said they favour legalization, compared to 62% of independents and 41% of Republicans.

Latinos were the most likely to support legalization, as 72% of them are in favour, compared to 66% of African Americans and 58% of white Virginians.

More than half of all U.S. states have legalized medical marijuana, but only 11 – Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Michigan, Vermont and Illinois – have legalized it for recreational use.

Virginia has one of the more draconian marijuana frameworks. It is technically illegal for all purposes, and possession of even small amounts is a criminal misdemeanour, although it has passed a quasi-medical marijuana law.

In 2017, patients suffering from intractable epilepsy were permitted to use some types of cannabis oil with a doctor’s certification, and that provided a defense against prosecution. Last year, the state’s lawmakers significantly expanded upon that law, and it was further expanded during the 2019 session with the passage of SB 1557.

Physicians’ assistants and nurses have now joined doctors in being allowed to issue a written prescription for CBD and THC-A oil.

Yet it lags well behind many states, and the neighbouring District of Columbia, and calls for a fully legal market are growing across the state.

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