A bill to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis in Virginia cleared the state’s House and the Senate and is now making its way to Gov. Ralph Northam, as of March 8.
According to Virginia Mercury, the passage of this bill would mean that cannabis would be treated like minor traffic violations in the state. The cost would be a $25 fine if you are found in possession of one ounce of cannabis or less, including hash or concentrates. It also seals records of past and future convictions so that employers can’t look at minor cannabis convictions. Only law enforcement officers will be able to access that information. “This means close to 30,000 people a year will no longer be labeled as criminals and no longer will suffer the negative repercussions of a criminal conviction,” said Sen. Adam Ebbin, who supported the legislation, according to Virginia Mercury.
Under old cannabis law in Virginia, possession of half an ounce or less can equal up to 30 days in jail or as much as a $500 fine. Concentrate possession is a felony, and driver’s license suspensions and jail time are common punishments for cannabis possession.
The bill passed in the House 56-36 and in the Senate 27-12. If Northam signs the bill, it will go into effect July 1.“This is an enormous victory for Virginians, a supermajority of whom have for many years opposed the continued criminalization of marijuana possession,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML.
Many feel that it is paving the way for full legalization in the near future. “As soon as we get these studies concluded, I think we’ll have a better sense of how quickly that sort of thing can move through,” Ebbin said regarding future legalization proposals.
Many are expecting the governor to sign this bill, as he has given the indication before that he supports cannabis decriminalization. As of recently, Virginia was even still cracking down on CBD cases so this will be a major change for the state.