Marijuana Distribution Charges Sealed in Virginia, Dispensaries Still Only Selling Medical Marijuana
During a recent meeting of the Virginia State Legislature’s Cannabis Oversight Commission, officials revealed that the state had sealed the records of over 64,000 misdemeanor distribution charges related to marijuana since legalization was enacted in July of this year. While those with Virginia medical marijuana cards can rest assured that they can continue to enjoy safe and legal access to medical cannabis, this announcement was good news for many cannabis fans and advocates across the state.
These sealed records were in addition to the records of 333,000 simple possession charges that the state had already sealed last year. The possession charges were sealed in response to a state initiative to reduce marijuana possession offenses to civil infractions, meaning that they would hold about as much weight as a traffic offense.
Social Justice Reform for Cannabis Across the Commonwealth
This is all part and parcel of the legalization legislation passed this year, but also an extension of a broader and more comprehensive reform campaign to expunge minor drug and alcohol offenses in the Commonwealth. Legislation passed this year allowed for the automatic sealing of misdemeanor convictions including underage possession of alcohol, trespassing, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and possession of marijuana.
As soon as the state is able to update the software it uses to log and track criminal records, it will expunge any remaining charges in addition to those already sealed that fall under this legislation. Offenders with more serious charges on their records from misdemeanors up through Class 5 felonies will continue to be able to seal their charges through a petition process. This process involves the review and approval of a petition by a judge, and an offender would have had to have maintained a clean record for 7 years for a misdemeanor and 10 years for a felony.
Criminal justice and reform advocates have long argued that criminal records act as a serious, ongoing threat to offenders, preventing them from segueing back into society. Especially in Virginia, where expungement has historically been problematic, criminal records can prevent offenders from getting jobs, finding housing, or securing loans, for example.
Black Virginians have also experienced a disproportionately high rate of drug convictions, leading many advocates to assert that these legislative steps are necessary to ensure racial and social equity in the Commonwealth. By taking these steps, legislators are creating new opportunities for many individuals who have been disproportionately burdened by the war on drugs in the state.
Advocates have also spoken out on behalf of those already in prison for marijuana offenses. This, however, may be a step too far for some legislators and was left out of the existing legislation. According to advocates from the Last Prisoner Project and Marijuana Justice, there may be as many as 10 Virginians in prison currently who are being held on charges solely related to marijuana. Many more may be in the system due to marijuana-related violations of parole.
The legislation known as House Bill 2113 also includes a Sealing Fee Fund. This fund will collect fees from those who can afford to pay and then funnel those funds into paying for court-appointed attorneys to represent defendants in the process.
A Marijuana Law Reform Trend Across the Country
Virginia is the latest of several states around the country to review and vacate marijuana records as part of a larger effort to realize social benefits through legalization. Illinois managed to expunge nearly half a million records, while California cleared an estimated 200,000. New Jersey has also made a concerted effort to clear these records, expunging over 362,000 records. States out West, including Colorado, Washington and Nevada, have all granted tens of thousands of pardons to those with marijuana-related convictions.
In keeping with this trend, more than a dozen states have established laws defining a clear process by which those with convictions can have them either expunged, set aside, or sealed.
With the governor’s race in Virginia still neck and neck as of this writing, some advocates are concerned that the tide will soon change for those with marijuana convictions. Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, has been running a “tough on crime” campaign and making false allegations about crime rates in Virginia during the term of his opponent, former Governor Terry McAuliffe. This has led some advocates to fear that Youngkin will move against marijuana legalization efforts and their associated initiatives, though he has asserted that he will not do so.
Get Your VA Marijuana Card Now!
Marijuana is continuing to enjoy a surge in popularity and support across the Commonwealth, but having a Virginia Marijuana Card is the only way to get legal access to cannabis products for now. Getting your own medical marijuana card is the most dependable and safest way to purchase quality medical marijuana products and take part in this cultural trend.
Schedule an appointment with an online medical marijuana doctor today to start gaining access to safe, legal cannabis products, including tinctures, flower, concentrates and more. As Virginia continues to right the wrongs caused by the war on drugs, medical marijuana users can support this growing industry and access some of the best in medical cannabis products.
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At Virginia Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to MMJ. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
Call us at (888) 633-5808, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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