Virginia: Marijuana Arrests Fall Dramatically Following Enactment of 2020 Decriminalization Law

Marijuana arrests in Virginia fell by approximately 50 percent in 2020 following the enactment of legislation decriminalizing minor cannabis offenses.

Data provided by the Virginia Department of State Police reports that police made 13,674 marijuana-related arrests in 2020. That’s 48 percent below 2019’s totals, when police made 26,470 marijuana-related arrests.

Among those arrested in 2020, 44 percent were between the ages of 18 and 24.

Overall, just under half (46 percent) of all drug-related arrests in Virginia in 2020 were specific to marijuana-related activities.

State lawmakers decriminalized minor marijuana possession offenses in 2020, and the new law took effect in July of last year. In April, lawmakers passed legislation legalizing the possession and home cultivation of personal use quantities of cannabis for those ages 21 and older. That new law takes effect on July 1.

States NORML’s Development Direct Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as Executive Director of Virginia NORML: “As NORML has long cautioned, decriminalization is only a partial step. It reduces the total number of marijuana arrests, but continues to leave far too many people — and young adults in particular — subject to the whims of law enforcement. With legalization taking effect in Virginia in less than a month, we look forward to seeing an even greater reduction in law enforcement interactions related to marijuana in the latter half of 2021.”