Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Signs Marijuana Decriminalization Bills
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has signed legislation, Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 972, decriminalizing “simple cannabis possession.” The new legislation goes into effect July 1, 2020.
Current law imposes a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum 30-day jail sentence for a first offense, and subsequent offenses are a Class 1 misdemeanor. The new legislation reclassifies possession of one ounce of cannabis or less to a civil penalty punishable by a fine of up to $25.
In 2018, nearly 29,000 arrests were made in Virginia for cannabis offenses, a number that has tripled since 1999. Cannabis arrests accounted for 59% of the total drug arrests in the state.
Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 972 require the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Finance, Health and Human Resources, and Public Safety and Homeland Security to convene a work group to study the impact on the Commonwealth of legalizing the sale and personal use of marijuana and report the recommendations of the work group to the general assembly and the governor by Nov. 30, 2020.