Possession of cannabis is now punishable by a $25 civil fine only in Virginia since the state’s marijuana decriminalization law took effect on July 1, 2020. The bi-partisan legislation was signed by Gov. Ralph Northam in May. Keep in mind that even though Virginia decriminalized marijuana it still is not legal unless you have a valid prescription.
Before July, possession of marijuana was a misdemeanor offense, which carried a maximum jail sentence of 30 days, a fine not exceeding $500, and driver’s license suspension. A second offense can result in a jail term of up to one year and a maximum fine of $2,500. A third or subsequent offense called for a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Now, the penalties don’t escalate for subsequent violations.
However, harsh criminal penalties for other marijuana-related crimes remain. Growing pot, possessing the plant with intent to distribute it, selling it, or even gifting it to someone else will cause you to face a harsher penalty. If you possess marijuana with intent to sell, give, or distribute it you will face a misdemeanor or felony depending on whether the amount is below one ounce, more than one ounce but less than five pounds, or more than five pounds of marijuana.
Additionally, the law also contains protections against the lasting effect of simple possession of marijuana convictions for offenses charged after July 1, 2020. This offense will no longer be reported on your criminal history or reported to the Central Criminal Records Exchange. However, if you were operating a commercial vehicle while charged with this offense the violation will still be reported to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. If you are not a legal citizen of the United States being assessed this civil penalty can cause immigration issues for you as marijuana is not legal under federal law either.
In 2018, law enforcement officials in Virginia made almost 30,000 marijuana-related arrests. Last year, a study found that the police disproportionately targeted Black residents and 127 people were jailed only because of a marijuana offense. Virginia legislators adopted the law change to reduce the long-term impact on people who are caught with simple possession of marijuana.
Whether you are currently facing a marijuana charge or any drug crime, The Law Office of Ann Thayer, PLLC provides compassionate and experienced legal services for residents in Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties, and The City of Alexandria. Attorney Ann Thayer understands how devastating drug charges can be before and after conviction, which is why she is committed to helping you avoid serious criminal penalties and getting your life back on track.
If you have been arrested for a drug crime in Fairfax or the surrounding areas, contact us today at (703) 940-0001 and request a free consultation. Available 24/7.