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New Virginia Marijuana Law Decriminalizing Possession Will Go Into Effect This Summer

Marijuana is legal recreationally in a handful of states across the U.S. while others have legalized it for medical use only. Some changes are coming to Virginia's marijuana laws this summer as Gov. Northam has officially signed two bills decriminalizing possession of the substance. The law will go into effect on July 1, 2020.

Virginia's governor, Ralph Northam signed the two bills Thursday, May 21.

"We applaud the legislature and the governor for implementing a policy that will allow law enforcement to focus resources on more serious crimes and prevent Virginians from having their lives derailed for possessing cannabis, a substance that is safer than alcohol," Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release Thursday.

The new law states that the fine for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana won't be more than $25. There'll also be absolutely no jail time served.

Those caught with small amounts will not have the offense added to their criminal records, and any previous charges they may have received will be sealed except for in special circumstances.

Employers and educational facilities will also not be able to ask about previous charges related to the substance.

If someone is caught with weed while in their vehicle though, it will be added to the driver's driving record and the Department of Motor Vehicles will be notified. Any violation will be charged similarly to a traffic ticket summons.

"We're thrilled to see that public opinion is one step closer to becoming public policy," Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director for the Virginia branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in a press release.

Until the new one goes into effect, the current marijuana law states that there's a maximum fine of $500 and/or a maximum 30-day jail sentence for first offenses, according to the Virginia Legislative Information System.

These bills first passed in March but Northam had some recommendations and changes that were later approved by the General Assembly. They've been in the works since November 18 of 2019.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Virginia has become the 27th state to decriminalize simple possession in the United States.