This month Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam made a historical move for the state when he signed Virginia’s biennial budget as well as eight bills from the General Assembly. One of these bills decriminalizes marijuana in the commonwealth.
Northam had recommended that lawmakers amend bill HB 972 to extend the state’s study on the legalization of marijuana and not allow a trial by jury for the civil penalty of simple possession.
The General Assembly had rejected these proposed amendments in April so the law that will go into effect is the one originally passed.
HB 972 cuts criminal charges for simple possession of marijuana and creates a $25 civil penalty. It also creates a work group to study the impact of legalization of marijuana and eventually release a report on the matter.
“Decriminalization is an incredibly important first step, and one that many thought we may never see in Virginia, but we cannot stop until we have legal and regulated adult use,” Attorney General Mark Herring Herring said this year.
“We see that other states have done varying degrees of changes in their marijuana policy, and I think in those states, we’ve seen varying degrees of success and unintended consequences and problems that have arisen,” said Republican House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert.
“Virginians have long opposed the criminalization of personal marijuana possession, and Governor Northam’s signature turns that public opinion into public policy,” said NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini.
The new law will take effect on July 1st.