Drug offenses are punished harshly in Virginia and can result in long-term consequences, such as a permanent criminal record. However, the legislature recently passed a new law that decriminalizes possession of marijuana in our commonwealth. Here is what you need to know about how this new law could affect you.
How the New Law Decriminalizing Marijuana Works
Under Virginia’s prior law, possession of a half-ounce or less of marijuana was a misdemeanor offense that could be punished by a jail sentence of up to 30 days and a fine of up to $500. If convicted, a person would have a permanent criminal record affecting his ability to obtain employment, security clearance, educational opportunities, and more. The new law that decriminalizes the possession of marijuana will go into effect on July 1, 2020. It will still be illegal to possess marijuana, but violations of the law will be much less serious. Here are the highlights of this new law:
- Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana or products derived from it, including hash and other concentrations, will be treated like a minor traffic violation.
- The penalty for violating the new law is a $25 civil fine.
- Violation of the law will not result in a permanent criminal record because the offense is not a misdemeanor or felony offense.
- Records of past and future convictions are sealed.
- Employers and educational institutions are barred from asking about violations, and past and future convictions are sealed from their view.
- Law enforcement will still be able to review criminal records of past and future convictions for marijuana possession.
Another law was also enacted that provides that no person can be arrested, prosecuted, or denied a right or privilege for participating in Virginia’s medical cannabis program. The legislature is also considering introducing legislation next year to legalize recreational marijuana use in our state.
Do you have questions about this new law? Do you need help sealing the records of prior convictions? Our experienced criminal defense lawyers are here to answer your questions and help you get the full benefits of this new Virginia law. Call our office to schedule your free consultation today.