The Virginia General Assembly has begun meeting — in unprecedented circumstances — for a special session. Lawmakers have already filed over 200 bills aimed at budgeting, criminal justice, and police reform. Several cannabis reform bills have been proposed, and the Senate has already approved two modest but important reforms:
- SB 5029, which would prevent law enforcement from using the odor of cannabis as a pretext for searching and seizing property, was passed in a 21-15 vote.
- SB 5013, which would give people issued a summons for cannabis possession the option of prepaying the civil penalty instead of having to go to court, was approved in a 29-7 vote.
Ask your state representative to support these bills, along with full legalization. The supposed smell of cannabis is perhaps the #1 pretext for police stops. Black individuals are disproportionately stopped and searched, just as they are disproportionately arrested for cannabis. These unnecessary stops are traumatic, demeaning, and can even be deadly.
Additionally, Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy (D) has introduced legislation that would legalize simple possession.
While these modest reforms are encouraging, broader reform — legalization and regulation — is still needed. By legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults, the state could further reduce cannabis-related arrests and police interactions, displace the illicit market by providing adults safe, regulated access, and create a new source of revenue and jobs.
There is increasing momentum from elected officials to legalize and regulate cannabis in Virginia, and it is important your lawmakers hear from you to keep the momentum going.
Let your lawmakers know you want them to support legalizing and regulating cannabis for adults during the special session. Please forward this message to your family and friends in Virginia, too!