A key Virginia Senate committee approved a bill to decriminalize possession of marijuana on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a House panel approved separate legislation to create a joint subcommittee tasked with studying the broader legalization of cannabis production and sales in the state.
The Judiciary Committee advanced the modest decriminalization proposal in a 11-2 vote. This comes one week after the panel’s Criminal Law Subcommittee passed the bill in a voice vote.
If enacted, the measure would make simple possession a civil penalty punishable by a maximum $50 fine. Current policy stipulates that a first offense is punishable by a maximum $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
“Years of hard work by so many open-minded organizations and legislators have made this bill more equitable and just,” Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), the legislation’s sponsor, told Marijuana Moment. “It is time to recognize that the prohibition on cannabis has failed, and move together away from an outdated system that has disproportionately affected people of color in the Commonwealth. I look forward to continuing my years of work to ensure this bill’s passage in 2020.”