Virginia Legalization 2020 Bill Summarized

April 1, 2021

We’ve received many questions regarding the Virginia legalization 2020 bill. So we decided to summarize it to offer some insight.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Virginia legalization 2020 bill:

Virginia Legalization 2020 Bill Summary

In the Virginia legalization 2020 bill, the governor made a variety of recommendations that minimizes the criminalized aspect of cannabis consumption.

For starters, possession and consumption of marijuana penalties in Virginia are no longer as severe. The Virginia legalization 2020 bill decriminalizes simple possession, with the penalty now a civil penalty of a fine that cannot exceed $25.

The law before the Virginia legalization 2020 bill imposed a maximum fine of $500, as well as a maximum 30-day jail sentence for first-time offenders. Subsequent offenses were considered a Class 1 misdemeanor.

With the implementation of the Virginia legalization bill in 2020, violations of simple marijuana possessions are charged by a summons in the same manner as someone with a motor vehicle violation. No court courts will be assessed for these types of violations.

Furthermore, the bill says that criminal history record information will no longer include records of charges or judgements for violations. Also, the records of these charges or judgements will no longer get reported to the Central Criminal Records Exchange.

Even with this being the case, the bill outlines that if someone is operating a commercial motor vehicle during a violation, it will still get reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles and will be added to the person’s driving record.

This bill also highlights that the procedure for appeal and trial for simple marijuana possession is the same as provided by law in accordance with misdemeanors. If either party requests a trial by jury during an appeal to the circuit court, it will be provided. The Commonwealth will then have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Through the Virginia legalization 2020 bill, suspended sentence/substance abuse screening provisions will only apply to criminal violations.

The bill offers a new definition of “marijuana” to include hashish oil and forces law enforcement to take on the presumption that people who have an ounce of marijuana or less possess it for personal use.

Other updates from this 2020 bill include:

  • Making records related to the arrest, criminal charge, or conviction of possession of marijuana not available for public inspection and disclosure, besides during certain situations;
  • Banning employers and educational institutions from demanding applicants for employment or admission offer information pertaining to cannabis-related arrests, criminal charges, or convictions;
  • Keeping agencies, officials, and employees of the state and local governments from demanding applicants for licenses, permits, registrations, or governmental services to provide information regarding cannabis-related arrests, criminal charges, or convictions.

This bill also lets people who have been charged with civil offenses who have been acquitted, a nolle prosequi is taken, or the charge is other dismissed to file a petition requesting expungement of the court records and police records pertaining to the charge.

And last but not least, the bill demands the Secretaries of Agriculture and Forestry, Finance, Public Safety and Homeland Security, and Health and Human Resources to create a working group to analyze the impact of legalizing the sale and use of marijuana on the Commonwealth, reporting recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor by November 30, 2020.

Additional Reading: Virginia Marijuana Guide

Important Legislation Following the Virginia Legalization 2020 Bill

The Virginia legalization 2020 bill made great strides for the state’s cannabis program. But it’s equally important to recognize other legislation from 2021.

HB 2113

HB 2113 has established a way to expunge criminal records automatically. The bill defines the process of expunging criminal records for specific convictions, acquittals, offenses, and deferred dispositions that have been nolle prossed or otherwise dismissed. This bill also offers a process to automatically expunge the criminal records related to charges from mistaken identity, as well as unauthorized use of identifying information. The bill was recommended by the Virginia State Crime Commission.

SB 1339

SB 1339 expunges and seals records. It also created an expungement fee fund. This bill establishes a process to seal police and court records pertaining to criminal records for specific convictions, deferred dispositions, and acquittals, as well as for offenses that have been nolle prossed or otherwise dismissed. Through this bill, people can petition to expunge police and court records related to marijuana possession convictions, as well as underage alcohol or tobacco possession and fake ID use to get alcohol. This also includes deferred disposition dismissals for possessing controlled substances or marijuana, underage alcohol or tobacco possession, and fake ID use to get alcohol.

The Expungement Fee Fund

The bill SB 1339 created the Expungement Fee Fund. This is funded by all collected expungement fees, and the bill says these fees will not be refundable. However, people indigent or represented by court-appointed counsel do not have to pay these fees. The Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court administers this Fund, and it’s to be utilized for funding court-appointed counsel costs.

Through this bill, a business screening service becomes essential. This is when a business performs criminal history records searches. Businesses need to register with the Department of State Police to get expungement orders and will have to follow reasonable procedures to make sure it maintains accurate records. The bill forces the Attorney General’s enforcement of these requirements, giving it the authority to file suit for damages and a civil penalty not exceeding $2,500.

Besides the provisions of the Expungement Fee Fund, the bill has been delayed effective until July 1, 2022. However, the bill instructs the Department of Criminal Justice Services to adhere to new emergency regulations that will facilitate the implementation of this bill’s provisions.

HB 2312

Through HB 2312, criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession are eliminated. This bill also modifies some other marijuana-related criminal penalties, and offers an automatic expungement process for anyone convicted of specific marijuana-related crimes as outlined in the bill. The HB 2312 bill also created the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority and will establish a regulatory structure for several sectors of the cannabis industry, including cultivation, manufacture, wholesale, and retail sale of retail marijuana and retail marijuana products.