Marijuana; decriminalization of simple possession. (SB1269)

Introduced By

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) with support from co-patron Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomac)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Marijuana; decriminalization of simple marijuana possession. Decriminalizes simple marijuana possession and provides a civil penalty of no more than $100 for a first violation, $250 for a second violation, and $500 for a third or subsequent violation. Current law imposes a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum 30-day jail sentence for a first offense, and subsequent offenses are a Class 1 misdemeanor. The bill provides that the suspended sentence/substance abuse screening provisions and driver's license suspension provisions apply only to criminal violations or to civil violations by a juvenile. The bill provides that a court may suspend a driver's license for a civil violation committed by an adult. A civil violation will be treated as a conviction for prohibitions on the purchase or transport of a handgun and disqualification for a concealed handgun permit. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/10/2017Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/17 17103829D
01/10/2017Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/23/2017Passed by indefinitely in Courts of Justice with letter (15-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)


ACLU-VA Criminal Justice, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

The ACLU of Virginia supports legislation that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. Previous attempts at decriminalization have not gained traction, but this past year saw advocacy at the local level and the publication of major research papers on the impact of marijuana enforcement that helped raise awareness of the argument for decriminalization. Decriminalization would establish a civil fine rather than criminal punishment for simple possession. Under current law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, as well as a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension. A second offense is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A 2014 ACLU report showed that in 2010, African-Americans were 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession and the associated racial disparities have increased in Virginia since 2010. A 2016 ACLU report estimated Virginia spends $67 million annual enforcing marijuana laws. House Majority Leader Tommy Norment has said the issue should be studied by the State Crime Commission, of which he is a member. While we would like to see the legalization of marijuana, a good first step is to decriminalize possession and put wasted criminal justice resources to better use.