Virginia budget would add criminal penalties for marijuana possession above four ounces

Marijuana Legalization
Posted at 11:44 AM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-02 17:53:10-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Possession above four ounces of marijuana could become a crime once again if Gov. Glenn Youngkin signs the recently passed state budget into law.

The General Assembly approved the state budget on Tuesday. Among the provisions - an amendment that would make possession above 4 oz. a Class 3 misdemeanor crime.

Currently, possession of marijuana up to an ounce is legal in Virginia. If someone has more than an ounce, but under a pound, it is currently a civil fine.

Possessing above a pound is a felony.

If the budget is approved, someone possessing more than four ounces would face up to a $500 fine. If they're caught again, they would face a Class 2 misdemeanor, which is punishable with jail time and a fine.

“Rather than creating additional ways to criminalize Virginians for personal possession of cannabis, the Virginia General Assembly would better serve constituents by establishing a legal adult-use marijuana market and ensuring that all cannabis products sold in the Commonwealth are accurately labeled and regulated for consumer safety,”said JM Pedini, NORML’s Development Director and the Executive Director of Virginia NORML.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police told News 3 they support the budget amendment.

"It brings clarification to the law in terms of creating limits to what constitutes legal personal possession of marijuana. We have a lot of work to do in Virginia to address impaired driving and marijuana, and in reducing illegal trafficking of marijuana. We believe this is a reasonable way to accommodate the legalization effort while limiting the impact of a federally-illegal drug on public safety. 4 oz. is a good compromise amount," the group's executive director, Dana Schrad, said in an email.

A spokesperson for Gov. Youngkin declined to comment on whether he supports the marijuana amendment, but said he is reviewing the budget.

Previously in a proposed amendment to a bill, Gov. Youngkin recommended making marijuana possession above two ounces a crime, noting the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission made that recommendation.

"We weren't blazing a new trail. We were just putting in good governance as it's been seen in other states and recommended by a bipartisan commission," Youngkin told News 3 in April.

Lawmakers killed the bill and did not agree to Youngkin's recommendations.

News 3 spoke with a business co-owner who sells equipment for people to start growing at their homes legally.

"You can't leave your house with more than 4 oz., but you grew plenty of it at your house legally. It's kind of... it gives mixed signals: Is it going to be legal? Is it not going to be legal?" said Dustin Weekley, the co-owner of Grow Gods in Norfolk.

Related: From seed to harvest: Virginia Beach’s Grow Maid educates people on growing their own weed