Virginia Senate Judiciary Committees Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana
On Wednesday Virginia’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted overwhelmingly (11 to 2) to pass Senate Bill 2 which would reduce the penalties for personal marijuana possession.
Specifically, the measure would make it so that the personal possession of up to an ounce of cannabis is – at most – a $50 fine. Under current law the possession of small amounts of marijuana is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. The measure also increases the amount of marijuana that can qualify for intent to distribute (a much harsher charge than simple possession) from half-ounce to an ounce.
“It is time to recognize that the prohibition on cannabis has failed, and move together away from an outdated system that has disproportionately affected people of color in the Commonwealth,” said State Senator Adam Ebbin.
However, the ACLU of Virginia has concerns, stating: “We are deeply disappointed that the Senate Judiciary committee reported SB 2 to the Senate Finance committee without allowing community members to testify and raise our voices for a more EQUITABLE marijuana legislation.”
The measure states that for those under 18 who are caught with marijuana, they might be sent to substance abuse screening program or have their license suspended.
Governor Ralph Northam has listed marijuana reform as part of his criminal justice reform agenda. During a speech not long ago he stated that marijuana decrim is one of his administration’s top priorities.
“This is a bold step towards a more just and inclusive Commonwealth, and I look forward to working with the General Assembly to pass these measures into law,” the governor said.
State Attorney General Mark Herring not only supports decriminalizing marijuana, he supports legalizing it as well.