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Simple possession of marijuana decriminalized in Virginia, prior conviction records now sealed

WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed multiple criminal justice reform bills into law Sunday, including measures to reform parole and decriminalize simple possession of marijuana.

The reform package also includes an amendment that would seal prior conviction records and prohibits employers from inquiring about them, as well as permanently eliminating drivers license suspensions solely for unpaid fines and court costs.

Most of the legislation was proposed back in January in an effort to give Virginians access to “a fair and equitable criminal justice system,” Northam wrote in a statement from his office April 12.

“These bills combat mass incarceration, increase support for returning citizens, and ensure that those who have paid their debt to society have a meaningful second chance,” he said.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the new legislation:

What’s the difference between legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing it, and where does Virginia stand?

Under newly-signed House Bill 972, simple possession of marijuana is decriminalized and a workgroup has been created to study the impact of legalizing marijuana.

Now in Virginia, being found with simple possession of marijuana holds a maximum civil penalty of $25, a huge decrease from the previous $500 maximum fine and upwards of 30-day sentences for first-time offenders. [Read More @ WUSA9]


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