Gov. Northam signs bill to decriminalize simple marijuana possession in Virginia

Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation on Thursday that will decriminalize simple marijuana possession. (WSLS)

RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation on Thursday that will decriminalize simple marijuana possession.

Northam signed two identical bills: Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 972. The bills decriminalize simple marijuana possession and provide a civil penalty of no more than $25.

Currently, the law would impose a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum 30-day jail sentence for a first offense, and subsequent offenses are a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Under current laws, someone with a half ounce of marijuana or less would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. With the newly-signed bill, the threshold for a Class 1 misdemeanor is now one ounce or less.

Also under current laws, someone with more than a half ounce (but less than five pounds) of marijuana would be guilty of a Class 5 felony. With the newly-signed bill, the threshold for a Class 5 felony is now more than one ounce.

The newly-signed legislation creates a “rebuttable presumption” that someone who possesses no more than one ounce of marijuana possesses it for personal use.


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