Virginia soon to soften Marijuana Rules for Adults

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on February 01, 2017.

The lawmakers in Virginia are planning to soften rules on marijuana use in the state. Adult persons convicted of marijuana possession would no longer automatically lose their driver’s license for six months under the new legislation moving through the General Assembly.

More importantly, juveniles convicted of marijuana possession still would be subject to license suspension under the legislation. The bills would leave it up to the judge’s discretion to suspend the driver’s license of adult defendants.

Last week, the Senate passed its version of the legislation Senate Bill 1091, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria and Republican Sen. Bill Stanley of Franklin County with the voting of 38 to 2.

During the Senate debate, Ebbin said that each year, about 39,000 Virginians lose their driver’s licenses because of drug offenses. Most states, including the ones bordering Virginia, don’t automatically suspend the licenses of such defendants, he stated.

Stanley pointed out that as an attorney he has seen young people hurt by the state's policy of suspending their driver's licenses. Stanley said the policy stemmed from the "war on drugs" in the 1980s.

"What we're trying to do with this very good statute is give someone the opportunity of a second chance for making a dumb mistake," Stanley said.

 Similar arguments were also made at the House Criminal Law Subcommittee meeting.

The bill now moves to the Virginia House of Representatives. Its passage there would send it to Governor Terry McAuliffe for final consideration. A spokesperson for McAuliffe says he’s likely to sign it into law if it reaches his desk.

Currently, the state law rules that a first offense for possession of less than a half ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, plus a six-month suspension of the individual’s license to drive a motor vehicle.

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