By: John C. Whitbeck
John C. Whitbeck, Jr. is the founder of WhitbeckBennett. His practice focuses on family law, special education law, and mental health law. He regularly practices in several jurisdictions in the Northern Virginia area. He has also been certified as an expert witness in litigation. To Learn more about Mr. Whitbeck, click here.
Marijuana Legalization Presents New Opportunities for Drug-Related Crime Expungement
On Friday, February 5, 2021, the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate advanced their marijuana legalization bills (“HB2312H2” and “SB1406S2,” respectively) out of their respective committees. On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam signed both bills, moving the date of recreational marijuana legalization from January 2024 to July 1, 2021.
What does this mean for you?
Adults 21 years of age and older may possess no more than one ounce of marijuana for personal use (and without the intent to distribute). It is still illegal to possess more than one ounce of marijuana. Individuals found guilty of possessing more than one ounce, but less than one pound of marijuana are subject to a civil penalty of $25. Possessing more than one pound of marijuana subjects one to felony charges.
The law allows adults to use and grow marijuana in their households. Individuals are not permitted to use marijuana in public. Adults may grow up to four plants for personal use per household while meeting certain requirements. The plants must be kept out of public view, and each plant must have a tag including the owner’s name and driver’s license number or identification number.
In addition to making marijuana consumption legal, the new Virginia Code §19.2-392.2:1 provides for automatic expungement of records relating to the arrest, criminal charges, convictions, and civil offenses of a person for a misdemeanor violation of former Virginia Code §18.2-248.1 or §18.2-250.1. However, the Department of State Police has until July 1, 2025 to determine which offenses in the Criminal Records Exchange meet the criteria for automatic expungement. In the meantime, you may be able to file a petition to expunge qualifying misdemeanor offenses. In certain instances, a person convicted of a felony violation under a former marijuana charge may file a petition to have the charge expunged.
Governor Northam has been leading the charge for marijuana legalization, including moving forward on eliminating past convictions for possession and leading other related criminal reforms. Governor Northam pointed to studies showing that legalizing marijuana would raise tax revenue for the state, which Northam intends to use for pre-kindergarten programs for at-risk three- and four-year-olds, the Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Fund, substance use and disorder prevention programs, and public awareness campaigns designed to prevent drugged driving, discourage consumption of those younger than 21 years of age, and educate on other potential risks.
The attorneys at WhitbeckBennett stand ready to provide counsel and advice regarding the new marijuana laws, including expungement of past marijuana convictions.
The law moves fast, but the attorneys at WhitbeckBennett are here to help you navigate the changing terrain.