Virginia done decriminalized that weed. The announcement stirs a dollop of good news into a broth of the real bad news, both for the world at large, and Virgina in particular.
Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed the legislation into law on Easter, signalling the rebirth of the holiest of holy plants in Virginia.
The bill makes simple possession of cannabis a small civil penalty punishable by a $25 fine. The records of cannabis convictions will also be sealed so that they can’t go on to haunt the convicted. In addition, employers will be prohibited from asking about prior weed convictions.
“Every Virginian deserves access to a fair and equitable criminal justice system,” Gov. Northam said in a statement.
“These bills combat mass incarceration, increase support for returning citizens, and ensure that those who have paid their debt to society have a meaningful second chance. I thank the General Assembly for working with us to build a more just and inclusive Commonwealth.”
Since Northam outlined decriminalization at the beginning of the year, the policy has had a relatively smooth time of it, sailing through state legislation last month.
Northam has also left the door open to possible legalization of adult use cannabis in the future. The bill he signed on Easter also creates a committee to research the effects of legalization. The group is set to release its findings by November 30, 2021.
The bill was just one of a bundle of laws signed by Northam on Easter which aim to revise criminal justice in the state. The new legislation additionally prohibits the state from suspending driver’s licenses for non-driving related convictions and raises the threshold of felony larceny fro $500 to $1,000.
“Virginia’s old laws often led to too many black and brown people getting harsher punishments than the majority of Virginians,” said Senator Louise Lucas. “I appreciate Governor Northam signing these new laws that will help bring equity to our criminal justice system.”
Photo via Flickr/Ron Cogswell