It was a day of celebration in the state of Virginia, as the House and Senate voted to decriminalize simple marijuana possession.
The House of Delegates passed HB 972 this week with a vote of 64-34 on Monday.
The Senate passed SB 2 on Tuesday with a vote of 27-13.
According to the House bill, criminal charges could not be brought against someone possessing half an ounce of marijuana or less and only a fine of up to $25 could be imposed.
The House bill also prohibits employers or schools from making a person reveal arrests, criminal charges, or a conviction of possession of marijuana and prevents government officials or agencies requiring that information for a permit, license, registration, or government service.
The Senate bill would put a maximum civil penalty of $50 or 5 hours of community service. The Senate bill also “raises the threshold amount of marijuana subject to the offense of distribution or possession with intent to distribute from one-half ounce to one ounce.”
The state’s current law imposes a maximum of 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500 for someone convicted of their first offense of simple possession.
The House of Delegates and Senate will now debate the differences.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring remarked, “Passing decriminalization in both the House and the Senate is a really important first step in the right direction on Virginia’s journey towards legal and regulated adult use, but this cannot be the end. We must keep going because the work is not done. For too long, Virginia’s approach to cannabis has needlessly saddled Virginians, especially African Americans and people of color, with criminal records but with these votes that is finally coming to an end. I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and the Senate for joining me in making this issue a priority and I look forward to seeing the progress we can make in the coming years.”