Watchdog suggests changes to Virginia’s new marijuana law weeks before legalization

WRIC report

The General Assembly’s watchdog agency urged state legislators to consider changes to Virginia’s new marijuana law Monday, including one to add a misdemeanor possession charge if someone is caught with more than the legal limit on them in public.

Virginia’s marijuana legalization bill directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to publish a report comparing the legislation to a JLARC report released last year before it was passed.

The report, presented during JLARC’s meeting on Monday, found that 80% of the policy options and recommendations in last November’s study were implemented into the final bill. Despite that number, JLARC staff expressed concerns with certain provisions within the legislation and pushed for changes that were initially recommended.

“The public possession limits and penalties are not as graduated as we suggested,” Mark Gribbin, JLARC’s chief legislative analyst who worked on the report, told commission members.

Marijuana will be legal in Virginia for those 21 and over starting on July 1. People will be allowed to have up to an ounce in their possession but could face a $25 civil penalty if they are caught with more. The penalty for possessing more than a pound is far more severe, with those convicted possibly facing a 10-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.


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