Va.: Governor approves decriminalization bill with proposed amendments

Apr 13, 2020

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Va.: Governor approves decriminalization bill with proposed amendments

On Saturday, Gov. Ralph Northam approved legislation, SB 2/HB 972, which would decriminalize cannabis possession — but requested several amendments.

Before the bill is enacted, the legislature must consider the governor’s proposed amendments, which include pushing back the due date for a legalization study by a year and deleting a provision that would end driver’s license suspensions for marijuana possession. The legislature is set to reconvene and consider the amendments on April 22.

If the bill is ultimately enacted, starting July 1, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana will be punishable by a civil fine of $25 instead of a criminal penalty and potential jail time. This is the lowest fine of any decriminalization law!

Here are a few details about the bill:

  • Reduces the penalty for possession of marijuana to a modest civil fine of $25. The current penalty for a first offense is up to 30 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.
  • Creates a rebuttable presumption that a person who possesses no more than one ounce of marijuana possesses it for personal use. (This will make it far less likely that a person will be convicted of possession with intent to distribute when the cannabis is actually for their personal use.)
  • Reduces the use of stigmatizing records and prohibits employers from requiring applicants to disclose marijuana possession charges.
  • Creates a workgroup to study legalization. (The original bill required the work to be completed by November 30, 2020, but Gov. Northam’s change would delay it until November 30, 2021.)

You can check out a full summary of the bill here.

This important victory will dramatically reduce needless cannabis arrests across the state, saving thousands of residents from life-altering criminal records for simple marijuana possession.

Be sure to share this exciting news with your family and friends in Virginia!