In the past, marijuana was a common way in which people in Richmond and across the commonwealth unexpectedly found themselves under arrest and facing criminal charges. Although marijuana is being treated less and less like a serious legal violation and a rising number of states across the nation are legalizing it, it is important to understand that the laws are still somewhat fluid.
Statistics show sharp decline in marijuana arrests coinciding with new law
A new law that went into effect on July 1 in Virginia making it legal to possess as much as one ounce of marijuana and to cultivate as many as four plants in a household has resulted in a 90% drop in arrests related to the substance. There were only 25 arrests in Richmond and the surrounding areas. During that same time-frame in 2020, there were 257 marijuana arrests. Even with that, the law can be somewhat confusing and those who are accused of distributing marijuana can still be charged. Ten arrests involved younger people age 18 to 20 who possessed marijuana while they were under the age of 21.
Law enforcement is quick to point out that they are not actively looking to make arrests for lower level crimes related to marijuana, but they will if it is appropriate to do so. There is yet to be a legal marketplace for marijuana in the commonwealth. Therefore, anyone who is caught selling it could be subject to arrest. That law will change in 2024. Still, six have been charged with felonies since the new law went into effect because they were in possession and were accused of intent to distribute. Having between one ounce and five pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute might result in as much as a decade in prison if there is a conviction.
Marijuana charges can still lead to fines, jail time and more
With the marijuana laws being recently changed and people still unsure of what is legal and what is not, there is still a chance that arrests will be made. This makes a criminal defense imperative. It is growing in acceptance for recreational use, but that does not mean the law should be disregarded. When there is an arrest on marijuana charges, it is wise to have professional guidance with how to proceed to seek a reasonable outcome, avoid the worst consequences or even have the charges dropped.