Although new marijuana laws and regulations have swept many parts of the country, so far Virginia was not included. And when we say “not included” we actually mean that Virginia currently has some seriously tough penalties for marijuana offenders – if that’s what you call people who consume and sell marijuana. Distribution of half an ounce will send you on a mandatory one-year prison sentence, while just being in possession of that much will make you a drug dealer in the eyes of Virginia’s law. It does not come as a surprise that marijuana advocates from Virginia are hoping to change that. They have proposed new legislation that would drastically decriminalize pot.
Serious marijuana law in Virginia
If you go to D.C. looking for marijuana, Virginia is definitely a state you want to avoid on your way back. That will all change next year if one legislator succeeds in his plans. It has come to the media attention that Virginia State Senator, Adam Ebbin, has filed a proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Senate Bill 686 would remove criminal penalties for the possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, making it an ordinary $100 ticket rather than a felony and a reason to be arrested. Currently, the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is punishable by a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.
While growing marijuana would still be illegal, the biggest change introduced with this bill is the creation of a presumption that a person growing no more than six plants is doing so for their own personal use. The bill ads that such possession will be penalized the same as simple possession. Under the current law, if you’re caught growing marijuana, you are facing a penalty of five to 30 years in prison.
Marijuana is no longer a taboo
Marijuana advocates are also hoping that, if the bill is passed, it would affect other laws concerning marijuana paraphernalia and limit the forfeiture of property from the sale or distribution of 1 pound or more of marijuana — currently there is no minimum amount. We can’t help but think of all those who suffered terrible consequences with these excessively harsh laws. “The criminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana ruins far more lives than it impacts in any kind of positive ways,” Senator Ebbin said.
Obviously, this bill is far more than just a conversation starter, as the effects of current laws are not favorable for so many American people. Let us remind you, this is not the first time that marijuana advocates have proposed decriminalization. Hopefully it will be the last. Decriminalization proposal from 2012 did not manage to find a fertile ground – the bill didn’t get a vote. Supposedly, now there is a general support for the general idea of the bill and that is removing criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts of marijuana.