New coronavirus variants detected in Va., Northam supports faster timeline for marijuana legalization, rare Whistler found in Williamsburg thrift shop, and more headlines

Virginia Mercury

Our daily roundup of headlines from Virginia and elsewhere.

• Virginia health officials say they’ve detected their first cases of two highly contagious variants of the coronavirus that first emerged in California. It’s the fourth highly transmissible variant of the virus found here.—Richmond Times Dispatch

• Gov. Ralph Northam says he supports a faster timeline for marijuana legalization than the 2024 agreed to by lawmakers. “I personally don’t think we should be arresting or penalizing somebody for something we’re getting ready to legalize. I plan to place a number of amendments in front of the legislature and hopefully we’ll be able to move those forward.”—VPM

• Virginia State University says it’s renaming four buildings titled for people with ties to slavery or segregation, including one named for Harry Byrd Sr., the architect of Massive Resistance.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• Hundreds of students at Washington and Lee walked out of class earlier this week to show their support for dropping Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the school’s name.—WVTF

• Initial unemployment claims in Virginia have dropped to less than half the levels they were at this time last year, when the pandemic’s impact first started to appear in state statistics.—Virginia Business

• A protester plucked from a treetop where they were blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline is being held without bond after a judge decided he couldn’t trust the accused to follow court orders.—Roanoke Times

• The massive container ship blocking the Suez Canal is leading to shipping delays 6,000 miles away at the Port of Virginia, with at least six ships bound for Virginia stuck in the jam.—Virginian-Pilot

• An art student found a rare etching by James Abbott McNeill Whistler at a Williamsburg thrift shop. She said she paid $4 and sold it on eBay for a lot more, though she wouldn’t name an exact price. “I’m a broke grad student and I really needed money.”—Virginian-Pilot

Sign up here to get these headlines and the Mercury’s original reporting delivered to your inbox daily in News to Know, our free newsletter.