Cannabis is regulated in over one-third of the United States and it has finally made its way to Virginia. While it is not yet legal in the Commonwealth, it has been decriminalized. This is when the criminal penalties are removed but civil penalties (often fines) remain. This is a step in the right direction but activists know that this is not enough for the communities that continue to be harmed by a failed war on drugs. The legislation in Virginia will not fix the issue of over-policing in Black and Brown communities but activists believe that it will put Virginia in a position to repair past harms. The legislation itself imposes a $25 fine each time a person is caught with one ounce or less of marijuana. There are no escalating penalties. Activist groups were divided on the legislation’s ability to actually fix any harms within the communities most harmed by prohibition. The bills failed to address the issue of decriminalizing paraphernalia or third-party background checks in record sealing. However, it also includes provisions for a work group to study the possible legalization of adult-use in 2021. Many activists believe that this legislation is a steppingstone that will be used to help Virginia ease into the world of legalized marijuana. While there is a long way to go, Virginia is taking its first steps towards modernity and taking the first steps towards fixing its past.
Jennifer Michelle Pedini & Cassidy Crockett-Verba,
Decriminalization in Virginia: Marijuana in the 2020 General Assembly Session,
Rich. Pub. Int. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.richmond.edu/pilr/vol24/iss1/5