In 2018, almost 29,000 arrests for marijuana offenses were made in Virginia. That is three times the amount of arrests for the plant that took place in 1999. It’s reported that marijuana arrests account for almost 60% of the drug-related arrests in the state.
Most of those arrests were for simple possession, according to The Washington Post. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is calling for recreational marijuana legalization. Several other lawmakers are calling for decriminalization. Lawmakers in Virginia just want some kind of marijuana law reform to take place.
Herring said, “The numbers are staggering. An arrest and conviction like this stays with someone for the rest of their lives. More than half of those arrests were for young people. It limits housing, education and employment opportunities.”
Herring is also for decriminalization of small amounts, expunging previous convictions and even pardoning some previously convicted persons. He wants to see recreational marijuana legalized and regulated properly in the state.
Republicans control the state Legislature which makes passing any kind of marijuana law reform very difficult. Three important marijuana-related bills died in committee in this year’s legislative session.
Virginia’s penalties for misdemeanor marijuana possession are steep. A first offense can come with a 30-day jail sentence and up to $500 in fines. Repeated possession convictions can result in a 12-month jail sentence and up to $2,500 in fines. In Virginia, anyone convicted of a drug crime loses their driver’s license for 6 months.
With new lawmakers taking office this year, the winds could shift in Virginia during the next legislative session.
Jenn Michelle Pedini of Virginia NORML said, “Virginians overwhelmingly want a fine, not a crime, for marijuana possession.”