What You Need to Know About Virginia’s New Law Decriminalizing Possession of Marijuana

Marijuana Plant With a GavelIn Virginia, drug offenses are prosecuted aggressively, and individuals face harsh punishments if they are convicted. Possession of even small quantities of marijuana was a misdemeanor offense under our laws. However, the Virginia legislature passed a new law that went into effect on July 1, 2020, that decriminalizes possession of marijuana. Here’s how this new law could help you.

What Is the New Law Decriminalizing the Possession of Marijuana?

Under Virginia’s prior law, possession of marijuana was a Class U misdemeanor offense. If convicted of a first offense, a person could be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine and up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine for a second conviction. In addition, the individual would have a permanent criminal record.

Under the new law that went into effect on July 1, 2020, it is still illegal to possess marijuana in our state. However, the penalties are much less serious. Here is how the new law works:

  • The possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, hash, and other concentrations would be a minor traffic offense, and the penalty would be a $25 civil fine.
  • Like other traffic offenses, a violation of the new law would not be a misdemeanor offense and would not result in a permanent criminal record.
  • Past and future convictions for possession of marijuana are sealed so that they cannot be viewed by the public. However, these records can still be accessed by law enforcement officials.
  • Employers and educational institutions are prohibited from asking applicants about violations of marijuana possession laws and cannot access these criminal records.

In addition, another new law was passed that prohibits a person from being arrested, prosecuted, or denied another right or privilege for participating in Virginia’s medical cannabis program.

Do you have questions on how this new law affects you? Do you have prior criminal convictions that have not been sealed yet? Call our Norfolk office or fill out the online form on this page to schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense lawyers to get your questions answered and find out how we can assist you.


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