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Local Legislators Propose Marijuana Decriminalization Bills

Two state Senators who represent sections of Arlington County have proposed bills that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana and reduce penalties for its distribution.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has re-introduced a bill, SB-111, which would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana and make it a civil offense, rather than a Class 1 misdemeanor, which it is now in Virginia.

Under Ebbin’s bill, violators would be fined no more than $50 for a first violation, $100 for a second violation, and $250 for a third or subsequent violation.

It is not the first time that Ebbin has tried to decriminalize marijuana possession. Last year, his bill stalled in the state Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee ahead of a study this year into decriminalization by the Virginia State Crime Commission.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported earlier this month that the commission did not vote on a decriminalization proposal, as it was “not yet adequately drafted for consideration.” It heard testimony on a decriminalization plan in October.

“My marijuana reform legislation will end consequential outcomes for simple marijuana possession, particularly for communities of color,” Ebbin said in a statement last year. “Possession of marijuana shouldn’t impact future employment opportunities, or cause the suspension of your driver’s license.”

Another bill, SB-40 introduced by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D) would reduce the penalties for those who distribute marijuana or intend to distribute it. It also raises the minimum amount of marijuana subject to the offense of distribution or “possession with intent to distribute” from one-half ounce to one ounce.

Both bills have been referred to the Senate’s Committee for Courts of Justice.

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