• The Smith Firm PLLC

Virginia Marijuana Possession

The Decriminalization of Marijuana As of January 1st, 2014, the states of Colorado and Washington will have not only decriminalized the use of medical marijuana, it will also legalize the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana (up to one ounce for Colorado residents, and up to 1/4 ounce for non-residents.  The District of Columbia has legalized the use of marijuana for medical use, but has not legalized the possession or recreational use of marijuana, despite lobbying from those who would see it legalized in a similar fashion to Colorado and Washington.In the Commonwealth of Virginia, marijuana possession is legal only in instances where it is legally prescribed.  Statute § 18.2-251.1, “Possession or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes permitted”, states that no person, medical doctor, or pharmacist shall be prosecuted for the possession  in the course of treating cancer or glaucoma.  The possession of any amount of marijuana for non-medical purposes is prohibited and usually results in an arrest.

What Are The Penalties for Possession of Marijuana in Virginia?​ A first time marijuana drug possession of less than half an ounce can result in a fine of up to $500 and a jail sentence of up to 30 days.  A second marijuana drug possession (again, of less than half an ounce) conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum jail time of 12 months.  Get caught with any more than a half-an ounce, and charges escalate from a misdemeanor to felony charges. ​ Delivery or sale of more than half an ounce of marijuana can result in a fine up to $2500 and up to a year in jail, as can the sale or paraphernalia or possession with intent to sell.  Penalties and jail times go up from there depending on how much marijuana you are delivering or selling

“I’ve Been Arrested For Possession of Marijuana.  Do I Need A Lawyer?” The possession of marijuana is currently an unclassified misdemeanor in the state of Virginia, meaning that it has lesser penalties than Class 1, 2, 3 or 4 misdemeanors.  But even so, a first time offense may carry jail time up to 30 days in addition to a $500 fine.  More importantly, a marijuana drug possession conviction in Virginia is something that will stay on your permanent record forever, as Virginia makes no provision for expungements if you are found guilty of any criminal charge .  A misdemeanor conviction can have a detrimental impact on your employment, education, driving privileges, credit record, ability to rent a home or apartment, security clearance, or immigration status.  Consequences such as these make it vital to have experienced legal counsel on your side. ​ ​Deferred Dispositions and Marijuana Possession ​Individuals who are charged with possession of marijuana in Virginia may be eligible for a program called Deferred Dispositions that allows them to avoid a conviction for this charge. In order to qualify, that individual must have had no prior drug charges and no prior convictions for firearms crimes. In order to take advantage of this program, the individual charged must plead guilty or plead facts sufficient in court. Upon that guilty plea, the court will reserve issuing a finding. What that essentially means is, the judge will continue the case for six months (12 months in some jurisdictions).

Between that day and the next court date, the defendant is required to complete at least 24 hours of community service and he must complete a drug treatment program. Additionally, he is required to pay all of his court costs, and his license is suspended for six months. During that time, the defendant is also required to remain on uniform good behavior. If he completes these requirements and complies with any other terms or conditions that are asked of him, at the return date, the charge will be dismissed.

This program is a great opportunity for first time offenders to avoid a criminal conviction. However, many people do not realize the costs associated with this program. The court costs vary from court to court, but start at a minimum of $65. The costs for the drug treatment program are typically several hundred dollars. Lastly, the cost of reinstating a Virginia Driver’s License once it has been suspended is approximately $165. ​ Failure to comply with the program’s requirements will most likely result in a conviction. At the initial court appearance, the defendant will have plead guilty or plead facts sufficient and in reliance on that the court will issue a finding of guilt. Often the fine imposed after failing to comply with this program is higher than the fine that would have been imposed initially. Lastly, many people do not realize that a nolle pross issued after completing this program is not eligible to be expunged. Therefore, like a conviction, it will show on your criminal record for the rest of your life.

6 views0 comments