Republicans are in control in Virginia, which is not favorable for marijuana law reform in the state. Those opposing decriminalization hint that doing so would increase teen use and impaired driving. The state may have to wait until the next presidential election in 2020 to get anywhere.
There is public support for Senate Bill 997, Public News Service notes. Senate Bill 997 aims to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession as well as allowing for civil violations to be issued in some cases. First violations of simple marijuana possession could be reduced to a $50 fine.
Fines would increase, with a $250 maximum, as additional violations occur.
The current penalty in Virginia is a $500 fine and up to 30-days in jail for just a first offense.
Jenn Michelle Pedini of Virginia NORML said, “The writing is on the wall. These members are primarily prosecutors, former prosecutors, former law enforcement, and maintaining the status quo is something that works for them.”
Pedini isn’t keen on the excuses handed down by Republicans in certain committees either.
She said, “No, I don’t think the reasons they provided are legitimate, like this isn’t a priority for their constituents, which as we know from polling is in fact untrue. Three quarters of Virginians support fines, not crimes, for simple marijuana possessions.”
Decriminalization efforts face an uphill battle in Virginia, but gaining support from the opposing side would help significantly. It’s a “wait and see” situation in Virginia.