Virginia Lawmakers to Consider Decriminalizing Cannabis Next Month

By Robert Capecchi, Deputy Director of State Policies, Marijuana Policy Project

When the Virginia Legislaturevirginia convenes in January, a bill to stop criminalizing those who simply possess marijuana will be awaiting consideration.

Today, an individual convicted of marijuana possession in Virginia can be thrown in jail for up to thirty days, fined up to $500, or both! This overly punitive approach can destroy dreams — a criminal conviction makes it harder to get a job, housing, and education. Criminalizing marijuana possession also wastes vast amounts of resources. In 2012, there were more than 20,000 arrests made in Virginia for marijuana possession. It takes time for police to book marijuana users, prosecutors to try cases, and labs to test marijuana. Meanwhile, more than half of all reported rapes and 80% of all burglaries went unsolved.

SB 686 takes a more sensible and humane approach by replacing the criminal penalties with a civil penalty of up to $100. Punishing marijuana possession with a civil citation recognizes that no one should be denied housing or a job because they possessed a substance safer than alcohol. It also allows Virginia’s law enforcement to quickly issue a ticket and move on to police more serious matters.

If you are a Virginia resident, please email your state delegate and senator today and ask them to support this sensible and long overdue reform — SB 686.

1 comment

    • Edy Pierce on December 17, 2014 at 5:07 pm
    • Reply

    I think as the legal ramifications stand cannabis, marijuana charges are too harsh. Loosing all benefits for use of an herb that is safer than alcohol I feel is much to harsh when the same people receiving benefits can legally drink to excess. I still believe it needs to be regulated and taxed. I feel sometimes people don’t know what it is they are buying. And the lack of knowledge is more damaging to the population’s health.

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