Marijuana laws are evolving and changing around the country. However, it is still illegal to possess marijuana both in Virginia and on the federal level. Bills in the Virginia General Assembly to legalize marijuana and decriminalize its possession have failed to garner the necessary votes multiple times, most recently in March 2019.
Though certain marijuana-derived oils are legal with a prescription, possession of marijuana can still have serious consequences.
Penalties for marijuana offenses
Even as marijuana becomes further legalized and socially accepted across the country, arrests for marijuana-related offense are rising. In fact, there is an average of one marijuana bust every 48 seconds, according to an FBI report.
In Virginia, the punishments for marijuana crimes vary widely.
A first conviction for possessing marijuana is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Subsequent possession convictions are Class-1 misdemeanors. These are punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Convictions for selling marijuana are subject to harsher penalties.
Selling less than a half ounce of marijuana is a Class-1 misdemeanor. Anything more than that is punishable as a felony upon a judge or jury’s discretion. Selling half an ounce up to 5 pounds of marijuana can result in a Class-5 felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Penalties go up from there.
Possessing hash or other marijuana concentrates is a felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison and up to a $2,500 fine.
Further consequence of marijuana convictions
Having a marijuana arrest on your record also has other consequences.
Employers, creditors and landlords will often perform background checks. A recent offense may deny you the opportunity to get a new job, secure a loan or rent a property. A drug possession conviction can even prevent students from receiving federal student loans, grants and financial aid.
What to do after a marijuana arrest
If you are arrested for a marijuana-related offense, don’t despair. It is important to remain calm and remember you have rights. Since possession and other drug charges can have such wide-ranging and lasting consequences, it is wise to seek legal advice to see what your options are. Though the situation may seem daunting, there is hope.