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

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