Feb 1, 2017 12:20 PM

Virginia to Become Next State to Decriminalize Cannabis?

Virginia State Senate has recently received two bills that would significantly reduce penalties for those who commit the offense of cannabis possession. The new initiatives signal a positive shift in how marijuana is viewed by the state’s authorities.

One of the new bills, known as Senate Bill 796, would provide those convicted of marijuana-related offenses under the age of 21 with a chance to lessen the damage done to their records. According to the law, a person would have the right to petition for disposition dismissals for cannabis possession, using a false ID card to purchase alcohol, and underage possession of alcoholic drinks in case the following conditions have been met.

  • The offense was committed before the age of 21.
  • Five years have passed since the date of completion of the terms of probation and sentencing.
  • All court fines and costs have been paid.

Another bill, Senate Bill 1269, would widen the state’s cannabis policy even more. The measure would cancel imprisonment for cannabis possession and would not leave an infraction on a person’s record. The decriminalization initiative would establish new rules, where offenders would face a maximum $100 fine for first offense, a $250 fine for second, and a $500 fine for any subsequent offense.

Both bills were supported by cannabis enthusiasts and activist groups. NORML has recently issued a statement saying that cannabis arrests should not have a negative impact on those who have just begun their adult lives.

The current cannabis policy in Virginia continues to criminalize the use of the substance. First-time offenders are charged with up to 30 days in prison and a maximum $500 fine. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to one year in prison and a maximum $2,500 fine.

However, Virginia has already made a few steps towards medical marijuana legalization. Patients suffering from epileptic seizures have been able to purchase their medical cannabis legally since 2016. Moreover, polls show that most Virginians support marijuana legalization.

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