What Does Virginia’s Marijuana Decriminalization Mean?

Beginning July 1, 2020, a new law in Virginia reduced penalties for offenses involving the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a civil violation.  This means that there can be no arrests and no criminal records for those who are found to be in possession.  In fact, the new law calls for only a civil penalty with no more than a $25 fine.  This is different from the former law where a first offense was punishable by a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum jail sentence of 30 days.

Federal Law

The federal government has elected to ban drugs on the basis of their dangerous effects on human health and public safety.  But, as a result of the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, any power not specifically given to the federal government is reserved for the states.  Because marijuana is not mentioned in the Constitution, the states are able to decide on their own how to handle the marijuana issue.  As of the date of this article, marijuana has been legalized in 33 states.

Process For Handling In Virginia

As a result of the new law in Virginia, Commonwealth Attorneys in both Fairfax and Arlington counties aren’t prosecuting adults charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.  Commonwealth Attorneys in both counties reason that prosecution of small amounts of marijuana does little to protect public safety, frequently leads to the incarceration of minorities, and uses resources that can be used to prosecute more serious crimes.  However, these counties will continue to bring cases against those people who have been charged with distributing marijuana as well as for conspicuous public consumption.

Marijuana and Alcohol Use

Because marijuana is the most-used recreational drug in the United States, it is frequently used with alcohol.  Marijuana use is often associated with heavy drinking, which eventually leads to alcohol abuse.  Some studies indicate that alcohol use may cause a faster absorption of THC.  As a result, when marijuana and alcohol are used together, their results can be magnified.

Marijuana and Driving

When someone gets pulled over in a traffic stop, it’s relatively easy to conduct a breathalyzer test or blood alcohol content test to assess the driver’s intoxication level.  But, with marijuana, it’s much more difficult to test for THC content, and the testing is usually not practical during a normal traffic stop.

Many states which have legalized marijuana use have seen an increase in the number of drivers operating vehicles while intoxicated or high on marijuana.  Some states that have legalized marijuana have also seen an increase in traffic fatalities since legalization.

In addition to the increase in traffic fatalities, admissions to U.S. emergency rooms has also increased with medical issues relating to inhaled marijuana smoke and marijuana infused food, such as candies.  Patients experienced symptoms of irregular heartbeats, vomiting, and psychotic episodes.  Increased levels of THC in the marijuana, which has seen a 212% increase in THC content, is thought to be the reason for much of the growth in marijuana-related emergency room visits.

Ritchie Law Firm is a personal injury law firm devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence. Ritchie Law Firm serves all of Virginia, while helping clients in cities and surrounding areas of Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Staunton, and Winchester also serves clients in West Virginia, including Martinsburg, WV.

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