Virginia Lawmakers Vote to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

Marijuana file photo

Anyone who gets caught with a small amount of marijuana in Virginia could soon face a small fine instead of a court case, larger expenses and possible jail time.

The majority of members of the Virginia State Senate voted Tuesday to decriminalize marijuana possession. The state House passed a similar bill with bipartisan support the previous day.

Virginia's top prosecutor, Attorney General Mark Herring, called the votes a "really important first step in the right direction."

"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," he said in a statement.

The House bill would make marijuana possession a civil penalty of no more than $25. The Senate bill puts the maximum fine at $50.

Gov. Ralph Northam has signaled his support for the measures.

The number of first-time marijuana convictions in Virginia jumped from 9,000 in 1999 to nearly 29,000 in 2018, Herring said.

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