Richmond, VA: Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam late last week approved multiple bills amending the state's marijuana laws.
Among them, Senate Bill 2/House Bill 972 reduces marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, to a civil violation punishable by a $25 fine – no arrest and no criminal record. The measure also seals the records of past marijuana offenders from certain public records requests.
"Virginians have long opposed the criminalization of personal marijuana possession, and Gov. Northam's signature turns that public opinion into public policy," said NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the executive director of the state affiliate, Virginia NORML.
In addition to marijuana decriminalization, Gov. Northam also approved Senate Bill 1015, which states that no person may be arrested, prosecuted, or denied any right or privilege for participating in the state's medical cannabis program. The program is expected to be operational and dispensing cannabis products to authorized patients by mid-year. Northam also approved Senate Bill 976 expanding and improving this program, and suggested technical amendments which must be approved by the legislature before taking effect on July 1.
In total, 16 marijuana-related bills succeeded in the 2020 Virginia General Assembly.