Law Change Will Result in Tens of Thousands of Fewer Arrests

Richmond, VA: Legislation passed this spring decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses and sealing the records of past convictions from public view takes effect on Wed., July 1.

“NORML is proud to have worked alongside Senator Ebbin and Delegate Herring, both longtime champions of evidence-based cannabis policy, to bring about these needed changes to Virginia law,” said NORML development director, Jenn Michelle Pedini, who also serves as the executive director of the state affiliate, Virginia NORML. “Virginians have long opposed the criminalization of personal marijuana possession, and the enactment of this legislation turns that public opinion into public policy.”

However, Pedini added that additional legislative reforms will continue to be necessary. “While we applaud Governor Northam, his administration, and the legislature for taking this important first step, it’s critical the legislature work swiftly to legalize and regulate the responsible use of cannabis by adults. For too long, young people, poor people, and people of color have disproportionately been impacted by cannabis criminalization, and lawmakers must take immediate steps to right these past wrongs and to undo the damage that prohibition has waged upon hundreds of thousands of Virginians.”

Under the new law, activities involving the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana are classified as a civil, not criminal offense – punishable by a $25 fine, no arrest, and no criminal record. Such activities had previously been classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a criminal record, and the possible loss of driving privileges.

In 2018, police made nearly 30,000 marijuana-related arrests in Virginia.

The new law also explicitly seals the criminal records related to misdemeanor marijuana possession from employers and school administrators, and defines substances previously considered hashish as marijuana.

Twenty-six states additional states and the District of Columbia have either legalized or decriminalized the adult possession and use.

For more information, visit Virginia NORML.


NORML's mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high-quality marijuana that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

Learn more about marijuana policy reform efforts around the country and read the NORML Fact Sheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding cannabis.

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