It should be noted that this bill does not legalize marijuana, but it will “eliminate jail time for simple marijuana possession.” If caught with the drug, Virginia residents will receive a “civil penalty with a fine” for their first offense.
While decriminalization means that jail and prison penalties are removed, fines will not change and selling marijuana remains illegal. Had marijuana been legalized, then it would no longer be against the law to sell the drug and many penalties would be removed.
According to the article, those who are against legalization worry that making marijuana too easy to procure would allow large corporations to misuse it.
Those in favor feel that decriminalization will still cause issues since marijuana users cannot get the drug legally, and that means “criminal organizations would therefore still have a source of revenue they can use for violent operations.”
WAVY-TV reports that decriminalizing marijuana was “a legislative priority” for the Democrats and Gov. Northam.
The new law won’t go into effect until July 1. The fine for those caught with marijuana will be $25. The new law will also allow a study group to research the potential impact of eventually legalizing the drug in Virginia.
Similar to what Vox reported, the WAVY-TV article indicates that some detractors of the bill believe it didn’t do enough for criminal reform.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia believes that because the bill does not “take away ‘a racist policing tool,’” it does little to negate the fact that “black Americans are more than three times as likely to be arrested for possession of the drug.”
However, Virginia House Majority Leader Charniele Herring — a Democrat — believes the bill is “is an important first step in combating the racial disparities in the Virginia criminal system.”
The reaction to the news of Gov. Northam signing a bill that decriminalizes pot was met with praise on social media. Several Twitter users expressed their enthusiasm over the decision in response to Vox’s tweet.
“Something good actually happened while the world is collapsing,” wrote one person.
“Virginia is getting it done. This is why voting matters it’s about more than presidential elections,” tweeted a second user. They added three clapping emoji to their comment.
Recently, The Inquisitr reported that smoking marijuana could potentially increase the risk of forming complications if diagnosed with the novel coronavirus.