A first time charge for marijuana possession in Virginia may not have to be on a criminal record forever. The Virginia Senate passed a bill that would allow those with marijuana possession charges (for the first time) to pay a $150 fine and the charge can be expunged. The vote on Senate Bill 954 was 38-2.
Senator Norment confirmed that it’s not a decriminalization plan, it’s just taking “a substantial step forward”, according to Richmond Times-Dispatch. Norment was initially planned to introduce a decriminalization bill, but determined that it wouldn’t have a chance of being passed in the House at all. Offering a path to expunging first offenses was more appealing.
Now, community service and not using any drugs are also conditions for expungement. The fees collected would be given to the Virginia State Police. A database would be created to list those that have had first-time charges expunged. This would prevent repeat offenders from receiving more than one expungement.
Additional funds would be put toward opioid abuse prevention education programs.
A poll released earlier in February, by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, indicates that 76-percent of Virginia voters support decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
An additional bill, Senate Bill 403, also passed. This bill allows those completing a sentence and/or probation to have an underage alcohol charge or marijuana possession charge to be expunged after 5-years, following proper completion of the terms in place.