Virginia residents caught with cannabis might get a chance to clear their convictions. On Feb. 12, 2018, the Virginia Senate voted to approve Senate Bill 954, a bill which would reduce the penalties for cannabis possession and allow first-time offenders to have their charges expunged.
If approved, individuals caught with cannabis would be fined no more than $500. Under current state law, offenders can be imprisoned for up to 30 days and/or fined $500. The proposed measure would also allow first-time offenders to have their charges expunged for a fee of $300.
Half of the revenue generated from the expungement fee would be used by the Virginia State Police to maintain a database of those who had their charges expunged in order to prevent them from using the option again.
The other half of the revenue generated would go towards the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic Fund, which is dedicated to fighting the opioid epidemic in Virginia.
Introduced by Sen. Tommy Norment, the bill was a disappointment to some cannabis advocates, many of whom expected Norment to introduce a bill that would fully decriminalize cannabis in Virginia.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Norment acknowledged that the bill fell short of decriminalization but that the bill “makes a substantial step forward.”