The General Assembly meets this week to contemplate Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed amendments to payments handed through the latest legislative session. They embody Northam’s request to legalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana beginning this summer season — as an alternative of 2024 because the General Assembly had deliberate.
Assembly members signaled they’re prone to approve the governor’s modifications, however some particulars in regards to the plan stay murky. It’s unclear, for example, whether or not it is going to be authorized to move marijuana in a automotive come July 1, when, underneath the governor’s amendments, Virginians can legally have as much as an oz of marijuana.
The problem is figuring out what an open container of marijuana means when the legislation was written with the belief that the state would have retail gross sales in place.
“The entire concept of a container is different for marijuana than it is for alcohol,” stated Sen. Scott Surovell. “If you were buying marijuana from a retail location, it would probably come in a labeled and marked bag with somebody’s name on it, with the weight shown. It would be a little easier to figure out if the so-called container had been opened or not.”
Dana Schrad with the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police stated it’s going to be tough to implement
“If it’s in a Tupperware bowl and you close the lid, is that considered sealed? We don’t know,” Schrad stated. “We don’t know what sealing of a non-commercial product looks like.”
Brad Haywood is with the advocacy group Justice Forward VA. He stated the unclear coverage will result in continued disproportionate enforcement.
“If you have pot, not in its original sealed packaging, and if anyone in the car looks like they are impaired in any way by pot then you’re guilty of a misdemeanor,” Haywood stated. “So a police officer can still use that as a basis to extend a traffic stop to see if they can get more evidence.”
Surovell stated lawmakers must proceed to refine the statute shifting ahead.
“People need to make sure they have a really clear understanding of what the law is before they choose to start either growing marijuana or carrying it around on their person,” Surovell stated. “Because it’s still a highly regulated product and there are still lots of restrictions on use and possession in lots of circumstances.”
If the governor’s amendments are accepted, marijuana possession prices and convictions can be mechanically sealed on July 1, 2025.