Senate Bill 111, introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin, calls for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. The current penalty is a fine of $500 and up to 30-days in jail. The bill seeks to make possession a $50 fine for a first violation, $100 for second violations and $250 for further offenses.
Those found in possession of small amounts of marijuana would receive a civil penalty instead of handcuffs, WHSV 3 News reports. Virginia NORML supports the legislation.
Jenn Pedini of Virginia NORML said, “We are pleased to work with Senator Ebbin again to advance common sense criminal justice reform in the 2018 legislative session. SB 111 details the method of decriminalization most are familiar with, which is when civil penalties are substituted for criminal prosecution. Think “fines not crimes. Nearly 80% of Virginians support this approach, and the Virginia State Crime Commission explored this policy option in the interim with a legislative study. We look forward to working with our legislature in the coming months to achieve this long overdue reform. Virginia simply cannot afford to continue spending $70 million criminalizing over 22,000 people annually for marijuana possession.”
Scott McLellen of the Harrisonburg chapter of Virginia NORML said, “It’s long overdue, it’s a failed policy. It doesn’t prevent use. It doesn’t change the cost of marijuana. It doesn’t have any effect other than (…) clogging our courts.”
The Virginia General Assembly reconvenes on January 10. The discussion regarding this bill is expected to begin shortly after the new session begins.