News, Politics

Virginia Is Making Positive Progress with New Cannabis Reform

September 24, 2020 03:53 pm ET
Virginia Is Making Positive Progress with New Cannabis Reform

Virginia is a beautiful state with rolling mountains, gorgeous countryside, and breathtakingly beautiful beaches. The state is home to an estimated 8.536 million residents. Its reaches span from the aquatic stretches of the Chesapeake Bay to the tree-covered Appalachian Mountains. Virginia also has a picturesque coastline with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The state holds the title of being home to the first permanent English colony, the “Mother of Presidents,” and is considered the “Birthplace of the Nation.”

In recent news, positive cannabis reform is blazin’ its way through the Virginia legislature during a special session. The state’s lawmakers are making much-needed changes to the current draconian laws pertaining to cannabis. Currently, in the state of Virginia, you can have an ounce of cannabis on you and not worry about doing jail time. The worst thing that could happen is you might find yourself facing a stern talking to and a $25 civil fine. Watch out for your papers or pipes though, as according to the NORML website, paraphernalia with the intent to sell could land you a year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.

Lawmaker Votes Give Hope for Positive Cannabis Reform

The Virginia House of Delegates agreed 54-44 in favor of HB 5058, a measure that will reduce the penalties of those caught with cannabis products in their car from a primary offense to a secondary offense. The new measure in cannabis reform would also prevent police from using the old “I smell weed” tactic to search your vehicle and/or seize your property. They would need more than just the smell to conduct these so-called acts of protection. This move by lawmakers comes just one week after the Senate saw success with a similar version of the legislation.

“While there is much more work to be done surrounding criminal justice and cannabis policy, SB5029 and HB5058 include important steps the Commonwealth can and should immediately take. Prohibiting searches by law enforcement based solely on the odor of marijuana will greatly reduce non-essential interactions between police and otherwise law-abiding members of the public.” NORML Development Director Jenn Michelle Pedini told Veriheal.

Pedini also serves as Virginia NORML Executive Director and works closely with the state legislature to advance evidence-based cannabis policy. The next step is to move these measures to the governor’s desk to make this reform a reality.

Suggestions for Next Moves Coming Soon

At the beginning of the year, Virginia decriminalized cannabis and created a panel to study cannabis legalization and reform. After two meetings, the panel is set to report to the legislature come November with their findings and recommendations. Many eyes and ears will be eager to see these results and their effects on current laws. Cannabis legalization could help pull the state of Virginia out of the grey and into the green, bringing in much-needed revenue to the state.

According to the Virginia.gov website, Virginia ended the 2020 fiscal year with a deficit estimated at $236.5 million. This is an arena that many states are having trouble fixing. Kansas knows this problem all too well. They even legalized casinos and taxed alcohol and tobacco to no success and are now, in a sense, having to rob funds from the highway and education departments to pay for other state obligations. These are rough waters that can be smoothed out by cannabis legalization. Even more so than just legalization, Americans deserve safe, affordable access to cannabis.

The Legal Green Scene Could Spell Relief for Virginians

People have been buying cannabis for quite a while now, and guess what, they still are. Instead of trying to lock up the entire country over a plant, it would seem to make more sense to listen to the will of the people.  Lawmakers in Virginia seem to be getting this message. Let’s just hope that when it comes time to revise the current cannabis decriminalization laws that they update them accordingly to the will of the people and not to the will of their billfold.

Solid legalization can create more in the long run than fast shops popped up with crappy overpriced medicine. When lawmakers look to help eliminate the illicit market for cannabis sales, they often see legalization as the door to making this possible. Sadly, what they are missing is that cannabis dispensaries need to offer better quality and lower prices than the illicit market, or it will never subside.

November could be a month to remember for positive cannabis law reform in the state of Virginia. It will be great to see just how broader cannabis legalization is being studied by the state and how the results of these findings will be applied to new laws. Be sure to let your lawmakers know that you support cannabis legalization. The more people they hear from, the better the chances are for positive cannabis reform and an end to draconian cannabis prohibition.

“Earlier this year, Maryland’s highest court unanimously decided that law enforcement may not rely on the odor of marijuana as justification to perform a warrantless search of a person or to make an arrest,” Pedini said. “It’s time that Virginia does the same.”

We couldn’t agree more! Stay tuned here at Veriheal to stay up to date on this legislation and more.

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