Virginia isn’t very friendly when it comes to cannabis. Less than a half-ounce can get you up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines and anything over a half-ounce nets you anywhere from a mandatory year in jail to 10 years. Even paraphernalia can get you a year in the pokey.
But a proposal from Virginia state Sen. Adam Ebbin would ease some of that by decriminalizing an ounce or less of pot and dropping the fine to $100. The bill would also lessen the penalties for people caught growing six plants or less – though that would still remain illegal.
Ebbin says this is possibly the first time that pot decriminalization has come before the Virginia senate but says the goal isn’t to start a conversation but to pass the piece of legislation and help stop the criminalization of Virginians for personal amounts of weed.
“I think criminalizing marijuana, disrupting careers and families, does more harm than the drug itself does,” Ebbin said earlier this month. “There’s about 25 million Americans who smoked marijuana in the past year, and our public policy should start to reflect reality and not deny it.”
Virginia NORML says that they are seeing support from both sides of the aisle.
“This is not just a conversation starter; we need to pass this bill,” Edward McCann, policy director for Virginia NORML, told local 13News. “We’ve been talking to many of the members. … I think there is general support for the core of the bill, which is removing criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts — even from Republicans.”
Paraphernalia laws would also change. Money collected from pot fines would go to the state literary fund, which helps promote reading programs for youth.