Feb 16, 2020 Reefer decriminalization is coming says Fairfax criminal defense lawyer
Reefer decriminalization passes the Virginia legislature
Reefer decriminalization finally has passed the Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, most likely to be signed by the commonwealth’s Democratic governor after the two chambers’ bill versions are harmonized. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer and drug defense attorney, I applaud this progress with marijuana reform, and see that both bills eliminate hash oil for more serious sentencing. ranges than pot in general. The bills are H.B. 972 and S.B. 2.
I recognize that the judges who currently push back verbally or otherwise against Northern Virginia prosecutors’ leniency on simple reefer possession are going to have nothing more to push against about simple cannabis possession prosecutions when this new legislation takes effect, which usually is July 1 of the year the legislation is passed, unless a provision is made for an earlier effective date.
Approved Virginia marijuana decriminalization legislation validates the Fairfax and Arlington chief prosecutors’ approach to simple cannabis possession
Fairfax County commonwealth’s attorney Steve Descano and Arlington County chief prosecutor Parisa Dehghani Tafii look all the less radical for generally seeking dismissal of adult simple marijuana possession cases, now that the new Virginia state legislation generally makes simple reefer possession a civil offense with a modest fine.
Reefer decriminalization creates a presumption of personal use rather than misdemeanor dealing
Fortunately, Virginia’s reefer decriminalization legislation creates a presumption for misdemeanor marijuana possession. Virginia criminal law currently makes it a misdemeanor to distribute or possession with intent to distribute up to one-half ounce of marijuana. The new legislation presumes no intent to distribute when the amount possessed is up to one-half ounce under the House bill and up to one ounce under the Senate bill (which also raises the misdemeanor dealing threshold to one ounce).
Furthermore, ownership or occupancy of the premises or vehicle where reefer is found shall not create a presumption for simple possession cases “shall not create a presumption that such person either knowingly or intentionally possessed such marijuana.”
Virginia cannabis decriminalization returns hash oil to no harsher penalties than for dry marijuana
The Virginia reefer decriminalization law also removes hash oil as a Schedule 1 drug, thus making hash oil indistinguishable from dry marijuana for sentencing purposes, therefore making simple possession of hash oil not a crime but instead a civil offense.
Beware marijuana risks for odor-based searches, driving under the influence charges and security clearances
The passed reefer legislation does not preclude prosecutions for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana, nor preclude adverse actions for security clearances for marijuana civil offense court judgments.Furthermore, police love searching for contraband based on allegedly smelling marijuana, and it is not clear whether the Virginia courts will uphold my argument — after this marijuana legislation becomes law — that making simple marijuana possession a civil penalty means that there can be no probable cause to search for cannabis nor any other substance where the alleged probable cause is only to believe the existence of simple pot possession.
Fairfax criminal defense lawyer Jonathan L. Katz is a highly-rated attorney pursuing your best defense against felony, misdemeanor and DUI prosecutions. Please call 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation with Jon Katz