A bill signed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to decriminalize possession of marijuana will go into effect on July 1st.
Under the state's current law, possession of the drug is categorized as a criminal misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to 30 days in jail, a possible $500 fine, the potential loss of driving privileges, and a penalty that remains on a criminal record.
The new law classifies the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana as a civil violation punishable by a fine only up to a maximum of $25. It will result in no arrest and no criminal record.
Proponents had originally sought the actual legalization of the drug, but upon meeting stiff opposition in the legislature, settled for decriminalization. State Attorney General Mark Herring saw it as an important first step.
"Decriminalization is an incredibly important first step, and one that many thought we may never see in Virginia, but we cannot stop until we have legal and regulated adult use."
The bill has been promoted by those who claim the black community is disproportionately targeted in enforcement of the current law.