‘We can do a lot better’: Virginia Attorney General looking forward to marijuana decriminalization

Decriminalization takes effect Wednesday

ROANOKE, Va. – Starting July 1, possession of small amounts of marijuana won’t land you behind bars.

Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana will get you a $25 fine instead of jail time.

This is one of several new laws passed by the state General Assembly earlier this year.

Marijuana advocates say while Wednesday is a big day in Virginia, decriminalization is not a public policy solution.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said says criminalizing small amounts of marijuana has not been working in Virginia.

“It won’t do anything to address the way marijuana laws are disproportionately enforced between black Virginians and white Virginians despite equal usage rates,” Virginia NORML Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini said.

NORML is a national organization working to reform marijuana laws.

“It has been needlessly saddling tens of thousands of Virginians with a criminal conviction every year. It’s expensive and costly, and the way that the system falls disproportionately on black Virginians and people of color,” said Herring. “So we can do a lot better and this is an important first step.”

The new law also seals past convictions so they’re not publicly available.