Virginia is next on the list of states that have officially decriminalized cannabis! This makes Virginia the 27th state to remove the threat of jail time for possessing small quantities of marijuana when the law takes effect on July 1 and will be the first to do so in 2020. On Thursday the governor of Virginia signed a couple of identical bills to decriminalize cannabis possession.
In a press release, Northam didn’t bluntly explain or do an overview of the decriminalization legislation but said he is “proud of the accomplishments we made together during this General Assembly session.”
“We advanced long-neglected priorities, including rights and protections for Virginians,” he said. “We were able to redirect funding to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and a number of the laws we enacted are proving to be more important than ever.”
With the governor of Virginia signing the bills—HB 972 and SB 2—Northam has kept a campaign promise he made back in 2017. As governor, he has repeatedly emphasized the urgency for reform, including in his State of the Commonwealth addresses.
Under the new legislation, if found in possession of up to one ounce of cannabis will be punishable by a $25 fine with no jail time and no criminal record. At the moment, current Virginia law makes simple possession punishable by a maximum $500 fine, up to 30 days in jail and a criminal record.
“This victory comes after many years of sustained effort by Virginia NORML and its membership,” Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, told Marijuana Moment. “And while we applaud Governor Northam, his administration, and the legislature for taking this step, it’s critical that they work swiftly to legalize and regulate the response of cannabis by adults and begin undoing the damages prohibition has waged on tens of thousands of Virginians.”
The Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Steve Hawkins also praised the reform.
“The move to decriminalize cannabis possession in Virginia is long overdue,” he said in a press release. “We applaud the legislature and the governor for implementing a policy that will allow law enforcement to focus resources on more serious crimes and prevent Virginians from having their lives derailed for possessing cannabis, a substance that is safer than alcohol.”
Independently, in Virginia’s capital city, Richmond, local lawmakers established a resolution last week that requests the city stop testing certain workers for marijuana as a condition of their employment.
Photos Courtesy of Virginia Mercury