RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin believes Virginia should establish misdemeanor penalties for people found with more than two ounces of marijuana on them.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC), the General Assembly’s nonpartisan watchdog agency, made a similar recommendation in a report last year before Virginia’s legalization law went into effect.
Youngkin proposed that Virginia establish intermediary misdemeanor penalties for possession of more than two ounces in an amendment to a bill from state Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta). The legislation orders the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority’s board of directors to develop regulations that outlaw the “production and sale of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products that depict or are in the shape of a human, animal, vehicle, or fruit.”
Starting in July 2021, people 21 and over in Virginia were allowed to possess up to an ounce for personal use but could face a $25 civil penalty if 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.
“We suggest you consider establishing a misdemeanor public possession limit that’s lower than the current one-pound felony limit,” Mark Gribbin, JLARC’s chief legislative analyst who worked on the report, said during a June 2021 presentation of the report.
Gribbin explained that other states with legalized marijuana have created misdemeanor possession charges for amounts between an ounce and a pound, typically ranging from one to two and a half ounces.
“If you want to be on the least punitive end of the legalized states, the misdemeanor amount could be set at around two and a half to five ounces,” he suggested last year.
Youngkin made another change to Sen. Hanger’s bill that would prohibit people under the age of 21 from buying CBD products. Lawmakers will vote on Youngkin’s amendment to the bill and others on April 27.
The General Assembly can pass the bill with the amendments with a majority vote or pass the original bill into law with a two-thirds vote in the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate. If the governor’s changes are rejected without a two-thirds majority, Youngkin could veto the bill or sign it into law.
During this year’s General Assembly session, Virginia Democrats proposed legislation to speed up recreational marijuana sales in Virginia but House Republicans rejected the effort.