These days some people may not see marijuana possession as dangerous as people thought it was in years past. In fact, some states have even decriminalized possession of the drug. While Virginia has not gone that far, a new law has taken effect that would reduce the penalties associated with marijuana possession.
A Virginia law that would permit those who are facing a conviction for marijuana possession to retain their license to drive has finally taken effect. The law was supposed to become effective on July 1, 2017. However, there was a delay in allowing the new law to become effective because the state needed time to confirm that this new law would not cause them to lose funding from the Federal Highway Administration.
Prior to this new law, if a person was convicted of marijuana possession, it was mandatory that he or she would have his or her driver's license suspended for six months. Now, such a suspension will not be mandatory. Instead, a judge can choose to sentence someone convicted of marijuana possession to perform 50 hours of community service. The new law applies only to adults, not minors. Moreover, if someone is facing a conviction for marijuana possession while driving he or she will still face a six-month driver's license suspension.
According to one criminal defense attorney, this is a good change, as those who have their driver's license suspended often have no way to go to work and may end up being fired. This negatively affects not just the person convicted, but also their family. Additionally, the Virginia State Crime Commission found in an October study that if marijuana was decriminalized, more than 10,000 fewer people would be arrested each year. One lawmaker is currently drafting a bill that will be presented in the next session of the general assembly that, if enacted, would make marijuana possession a civil offense rather than a criminal one.
As this shows, some people in Virginia do not view marijuana possession in the same light as it has been previously seen in. That being said, marijuana possession is still penalized and other crimes involving marijuana, such as manufacturing or trafficking marijuana, still carry serious penalties. Therefore, those who are facing charges involving marijuana may want to seek legal advice to assist them in developing a solid defense strategy.
Source: nbc29.com, "Law Removing Mandatory License Suspension with Marijuana Charge Goes into Effect," Emmy Freedman, Nov. 7, 2017