Virginia Governor Signs Cannabis Decriminalization Bill into Law

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation April 12 to decriminalize the simple possession of cannabis, according to a WJLA report.

The decriminalization measure, which is an amendment to House Bill 972, reduces the penalty for the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis to a $25 fine. Records and convictions will be sealed under the new law, and employers are now prohibited from looking into past convictions, WJLA reported.

Prior to the new law, those convicted of cannabis possession could face a 30-day jail sentence and a fine up to $500 for the first offense.

“Virginians have long opposed the criminalization of personal marijuana possession, and Gov. Northam’s signature turns that public opinion into public policy,” NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the executive director of the state affiliate, Virginia NORML, said in a public statement.

The legislation also establishes a workgroup to study the impact of adult-use cannabis legalization in the state, according to WJLA, and Northam has requested a report from the workgroup by Nov. 30, 2021.

Virginia looked poised to legalize adult-use cannabis this year when Del. Steve Heretick announced plans last fall to file a cannabis legalization bill in 2020, after this first attempt stalled in the legislature last year. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring also announced his support for adult-use legalization last year, vowing to work with state leaders toward policy reform.

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