Virginia Senate Approves Cannabis Decriminalization Measure
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Virginia Senate Approves Cannabis Decriminalization Measure

The House approved a similar bill earlier this week, and Gov. Ralph Northam has promised to sign decriminalization legislation into law this year.

February 12, 2020

Virginia is on the cusp of decriminalizing cannabis this year after the Senate approved a bill Feb. 11 that would eliminate jail time for simple cannabis possession.

S.B. 2 would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis and set the maximum penalty at a $50 fine. The legislation passed the Senate in a 27-13 vote, according to a local WRIC report.

The day before, on Feb. 10, the House of Delegates approved H.B. 972, a similar bill that would make the simple possession of cannabis punishable by a civil fine of $25.

Under current law, those charged with cannabis possession could face a $500 fine and 30 days in jail for a first offense.

The two legislative chambers must now reconcile the minor differences between their proposals in conference, according to a Vox report, and Gov. Ralph Northam has promised to sign a decriminalization bill into law this year.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has also announced his support for cannabis policy reform in the state, stating last summer that he would work with state leaders to take steps toward legalization.

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Whether the state tackles legalization this year remains to be seen, but Herring sees decriminalization as an important step forward.

“Passing decriminalization in both the House and the Senate is a really important first step in the right direction on Virginia’s journey towards legal and regulated adult use, but this cannot be the end. We must keep going because the work is not done,” Herring said in a public statement. “For too long, Virginia’s approach to cannabis has needlessly saddled Virginians, especially African Americans and people of color, with criminal records but with these votes that is finally coming to an end. I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and the Senate for joining me in making this issue a priority and I look forward to seeing the progress we can make in the coming years."