Social media users began debating over marijuana legalization over the weekend after a Virginia House delegate claimed he had met with family members of people who overdosed on weed.
On Friday, the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate passed their respective bills that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. The bill would eliminate criminal penalties for simple possession and automatically expunge certain marijuana-related criminal charges from some individuals’ records.
If Gov. Ralph Northam signs the bill, Virginia will become the first Southern state to legalize recreational marijuana.
But Virginia House Delegate John McGuire is speaking out against the legalization of marijuana, reported Brandon Jarvis, a journalist for the Henrico Citizen.
Jarvis tweeted Friday that McGuire said he had “7-8 people cry in his arms” because their children had overdosed.
When a parody Twitter account for Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase backed McGuire Friday, and alleged that marijuana legalization would lead to more “marijuana overdoses and deaths,” the debate took off.
On social media, many users dismissed the concerns of McGuire and poked fun at the idea that someone would die from a marijuana overdose, if an overdose was even possible at all.
There has never been a reported case of a fatal marijuana overdose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reactions like “extreme confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, fast heart rate, delusions or hallucinations,” can lead to unintentional injury such as “motor vehicle crash, fall or injury.”
The new bill passes in the Virginia House by a vote of 55-42. All Republicans voted against the measure, except for two who abstained. The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 21-15.
Recreational sales of marijuana would begin Jan. 1, 2024.
Both bills would use a majority of the sales tax revenue to fund pre-K for at-risk children, as well as public health measures.
The Senate version of the Bill includes a stipulation that the General Assembly would have to pass the bill again in 2022, which could prove problematic if Republicans reclaim the Senate.
After the differences between the two bills have been ironed out, it will be sent to Northam. The governor expressed his support for marijuana legalization last year and is expected to sign the bill into law.
“I think that Virginia is on a path to an equitable legalization plan for marijuana,” said Virginia Senator Adam Ebbin, who introduced the bill. “There have been a few bumps, but I’m hopeful that we’ll have a polished bill we can agree upon in the next few weeks.”