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Virginia Lawmakers Approve Bill to Decriminalize Simple Marijuana Possession

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Virginia lawmakers voted to decriminalize simple marijuana possession of ½ ounce or less. The initiative sets the fine for simple possession at just $25. Currently, a first offense of simple possession could result in 30 days in jail.

There were initially two versions, but a compromise was agreed upon between the House and Senate, Shepherd Express reported.

Those that do receive a fine for simple marijuana possession won’t see a charge on their criminal histories. Employers and other agencies won’t be able to require disclosure of previous marijuana offenses either.

Hashish oil (or concentrate) is included in the decriminalization legislation. The current law classifies possession of hashish oil as a felony that can carry a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

Governor Ralph Northam said that he would sign decriminalization legislation into law.

Governor Northam said, “The punishment must fit the crime. Not every offense deserves a life sentence. It’s time to temper justice with mercy. Remember, this is a bipartisan issue. Lots of Republican-led states have reformed their criminal justice systems. It’s time for Virginia to do it, too. This means decriminalizing marijuana possession—and clearing the records of people who’ve gotten into trouble for it.”

Democratic House Majority Leader Charniele Herring said, “This bill… will prevent low-level offenders from receiving jail time for simple possession while we move toward legalization in the coming years with a framework that addresses both public safety and equity in an emerging market.”

Attorney General Mark R. Herring said, “With this historic vote, we are making Virginia a more fair, just, equal and progressive place. Decriminalization is an important first step on Virginia’s path towards legal, regulated adult use, and one many thought was still years away, but we cannot stop now. We’ve shown that smart, progressive reform is possible, and we must keep going.”

The bill is expected to be signed into law soon.