The Virginia General Assembly will be starting their 2015 legislative session the second week in January. This will be a short 30 day session with which they have to deal with all legislative matters, and there are a number of bills that have been introduced that deal with drug policy that we should mention.
This bill, introduced by State Senator Adam Ebbin of the 30th District, would remove the 30 day jail sentence for simple marijuana possession and reduce the fine from $500 to $100. It also allows for defense from distribution charges by presuming that someone who cultivates up to six plants does so for personal reasons, and also removes the civil forfeiture penalties from quantities under a pound. This legislation has been referred to the Committee for the Courts of Justice.
Most people do not realize that Virginia already has medical marijuana laws on the books. The Code of Virginia 18.2-251.1 allows for the possession of marijuana by prescription for the treatment of cancer or glaucoma. This bill from Delegate Bob Marshall of the 13th District, would repeal this provision as well as add additional limits on the ability of physicians to prescribe other controlled substances. This legislation was introduced in the 2014 session but never made it out of the Committee for the Courts of Justice.
It does appear that it is still active, and may have a chance to come up during the new session. [edit: The bill was passed by and would need to be reintroduced to be considered for the 2015 session.]
This bill from Delegate Joeseph Yost of the 12th District, would allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp.
The full list of pending legislation is available on this page at the Marijuana Policy Project site.
The VMLP’s focus for this upcoming Assembly session will be on SB686, as it will have the most impact Virginia drug policy. Our focus will be to pressure members of the Senate Courts of Justice committee to pass the bill up to the larger assembly for vote. We will be reaching out to the members of the committee to gather their positions on the bill and help support Senator Ebbin with his efforts. Should the bill pass committee, we will then have the task of helping push this legislation through the State Senate, the House of Delegates, and then on to Governor McAuliffe.
My next post will be on the Committee and their individual members; in the meantime please show your support for Senator Ebbin by sending him an email and letting him know that you stand behind SB 686.