The Virginia General Assembly convened to kick off its 2019 legislative session on Wednesday, and several efforts are being made to reform the state's marijuana policies.
Two bills, HB2079 and SB997, have been introduced to decriminalize marijuana, making simple possession a civil fine of $50 for a first violation instead of an offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) also pushed for marijuana decriminalization in his State of the Commonwealth speech.
Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. have stopped jailing their residents for possession of modest amounts of marijuana, and 10 of those states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for individuals over 21. Polling has shown that almost eight out of 10 Virginia residents support replacing criminal convictions with a fine, and 62 percent favor ending marijuana prohibition all together.
Contact your lawmakers today and urge them to make marijuana policy reform a priority in 2019. Then, share this message with your friends and family in Virginia.
Earlier this week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe took a question about legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use, as Colorado has done. While he is not “yet” supportive of this sensible policy change, he did use the question as an opportunity to express his support for medical marijuana. The Virginia General Assembly should follow suit by sending Gov. McAuliffe a comprehensive medical marijuana bill in 2015.
Virginia law already recognizes marijuana’s medicinal benefits, but, because of the way the law is written, patients are left without a legal way to access, possess, or even use their medicine without a change in federal policy. Virginia can and should enact a law similar to the laws in 23 states and D.C. that allow the terribly ill to use, possess, and access medical marijuana in state despite the failed and draconian federal prohibition.
If you are a Virginia resident, please email your lawmakers urging them to pass compassionate legislation.