Cannabis decriminalized in Virginia


Helen Ehrlich, News Editor

Legislation decriminalizing the possession of cannabis has passed through Virginia’s House and Senate, lowering the punishment to a fine of $25 to $50, instead of criminal charges. 

Legalization of cannabis in Virginia has proven to be a bipartisan issue in Virginia, as legislators point to the financial burden and racial bias that the prosecution of cannabis usage leaves the state to struggle with, currently. Over 46,000 people were arrested in Virginia in 2018 for possession of cannabis, and over half of those convictions were of Black people, despite the fact that recreational weed usage is racially balanced. The financial burden that prosecuting these cases has put on the state pushed lawmakers to pass the bill in both the Senate and House.

The law currently states that individuals found carrying personal quantities of cannabis can be fined a maximum of $500 and charged with up to 30 days in jail, which remains on their record. This new policy is passed along with a slew of other bills that carry out campaign promises of the newly elected Virginian Democrats.

Governor Ralph Northam endorsed the bill in December, meaning the House and Senate expect the bill to pass across his desk with ease. Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring stated, “Passing decriminalization in both the House and the Senate is a really important first step in the right direction on Virginia’s journey towards legal and regulated adult use, but this cannot be the end. We must keep going because the work is not done. For too long, Virginia’s approach to cannabis has needlessly saddled Virginians, especially African Americans and people of color, with criminal records but with these votes that is finally coming to an end. I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and the Senate for joining me in making this issue a priority and I look forward to seeing the progress we can make in the coming years.”