Virginia lawmakers passed a bill decriminalizing marijuana. On Sunday, March 8, it was sent to Governor Ralph Northam's desk for approval. If he signs it, the measure would take effect in July of 2020.
Decriminalization Not Legalization
The marijuana bill would decriminalize possession of less than 1 ounce of the substance. A person caught violating the law would be subject to a civil penalty of $25. Currently, if a person has less than half an ounce of marijuana, they could be sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined up to $500.
Although the bill would decriminalize marijuana, that does not mean the substance would be legal. Criminal penalties would still be imposed if a person has more than 1 ounce of the substance.
Lawmakers also approved a bill that would allow funding for studying the effects of marijuana legalization. They stated that they might look at legalizing the substance next year.
Clearing Criminal Records of Marijuana Charges
A conviction for low-level possession of marijuana can have profound effects on a person's life. It results in a searchable criminal record, which can impact final decisions about employment or schooling.
The bill lawmakers sent to Governor Northam also addresses the expungement of past and future misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests, charges, and convictions. If it's approved, possession information would be wiped from a person's record, and employers and schools would be barred from asking about it unless the individual applied for a position with a law enforcement agency.
Addressing Enforcement Disparities
Currently, males, young adults, and black residents are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession. Lawmakers who supported the decriminalization bill said that the measure would be a step in mitigating these disparities.
Call Vaughan C. Jones, Attorney at Law for Legal Representation
The marijuana decriminalization bill is pending approval from the Governor, which means possession is still a criminal offense. If you've been charged with a drug crime in Richmond, reach out to Attorney Vaughan C. Jones for aggressive defense for your case.
Schedule your free consultation by calling (804) 207-5735 or submitting an online contact form.