On June 1, the Virginia General Assembly approved a bill that would re-criminalize public marijuana possession over four ounces.
This bill will go into effect as soon as Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin signs off on it.
What Does This Mean for Virginia Residents?
Before the introduction of this bill, a person found with less than a pound of marijuana was punishable only by a $25 civil penalty. A person found publicly with more than a pound would face a felony.
When this budget bill goes through, people found with four ounces and up to a pound of marijuana will receive Class 3 misdemeanor and be responsible for up to a $500 fine.
If it is a person’s second offense, he will be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor, which is much more serious. This type of misdemeanor carries possible jail time up to 6 months, and/or a hefty $1000 civil penalty.
The bill also bans companies from selling edible products containing THC to those under 21 with the exception of medical marijuana patients.
Back in April, Governor Youngkin attempted to pass an amendment (SB 591) that would have re-criminalized possession of two ounces of marijuana. The Senate of Virginia voted against this amendment, and it was not passed.
What Is the Motivation Behind Lawmakers’ Efforts to Re-Criminalize Marijuana?
JM Pedini, the Executive Director of Virginia NORML spoke out against this bill, stating that there must be a lack of understanding by the Assembly of existing marijuana laws.
If the Assembly is trying to minimize illegal transactions, there are already many specific laws against the distribution or intent to distribute marijuana.
What’s the Good News?
NORML successfully advocated for the bill to clarify that a person in possession of marijuana at their residence for their own personal use will not be subject to penalty.
NORML has also successfully advocated for multiple Class 6 felonies relating to the cultivation of marijuana to be classified as infractions moving forward. These infractions will result in only a $25 civil penalty for violators.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Recreational Cannabis in Virginia?
When Virginia’s recreational cannabis bill passed just last year, the community showed an outpour of support.
Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of Marijuana Justice Virginia is in full opposition of this bill. Wise writes, “Please stop finding more ways to criminalize Virginians,” adding, “let’s work on righting the wrongs from the failed and destructive prohibition.”
We can only hope that our state lawmakers will stop trying to criminalize its residents and focus on more pressing issues.
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