Legislation that would reduce the penalty for, and allow for the expungement of, first time marijuana possession charges has been passed by Virginia’s full Senate.
The Senate voted 38 to 2 today to pass Senate Bill 954, which was filed by Senator Tommy Norment (R). The measure “Reduces the penalties for possession of marijuana to a fine of not more than $500”, whereas currently such a charge can result in up to 30 days in jail. The bill also provides that a first offense for possession of marijuana is eligible for expungement, given the individual charged pays a $150 fee (which would go to the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic Fund)
Senator Norment says that although the measure is far from perfect and isn’t as large of a law change as he’d prefer, it still “makes a substantial step forward.”
The proposal will now be sent to the House of Representatives. Passage in the House would send the bill to Governor Ralph Northam for final consideration. If signed into law by Governor Northam, or allowed to become law without his signature, the portion of the measure reducing the marijuana penalty would take effect July 1 of this year, while the remainder of the bill would take effect on January 1, 2019.
According to a Wason Center for Public Policy poll released this month, 76% of Virginia voters support decriminalizing marijuana possession.
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