A move to legalize marijuana in Virginia made progress with a bill introduced Jan. 8. Meanwhile, bills that are in consideration would work in tandem with such legislation, decriminalizing possession of marijuana and reduce punishment to a civil infraction, punishable by a $50 fine rather than 30 days in jail and as much as $500.
There are 10 marijuana-related bills currently on the list to be considered by Virginia legislators. The bills vary from legalizing recreational use for adults over the age of 21, protecting students who use marijuana from expulsion from school and even include regulations for marijuana advertisements.
The move to expand the medical marijuana program in Virginia in 2018 helped push progress towards recreational use as a legal option. Currently, Sen. Adam P. Ebbin of Alexandria is the sponsor for the bill to decriminalize marijuana possession and reduce the fine for such a charge.
The move to decriminalize in 2019 is not the first attempt at such legislation. Prior bills have always been stalled in committee, with the large number of Republicans in both legislative groups a significant factor in those bills’ lack of progress.
Marijuana supporters and detractors alike feel that legalization is in the future. However, the skepticism revolves around whether or not that move will come about in 2019. Considering that each legislator in the General Assembly will be up for re-election in November 2019, that move may not be the most likely.
The opposition is voicing similar concerns to those in other states, namely, the easier access for teenagers to a drug and also the increase in impaired driving and related accidents. The state’s efforts to crack down on drunk driving would face a significant setback should marijuana be legalized — at least, so says Waynesboro commonwealth attorney David Ledbetter. Ledbetter maintains that most law enforcement already treats marijuana possession as a fineable offense, and decriminalization is not a necessary move.
Virginia citizens have already shown approval for decriminalization in recent polls, while Norfolk, Virginia’s city council has already moved to decriminalize with noted support in its 2019 agenda.
The state also expects to see its first medical dispensaries open during the course of 2019.