Marijuana Decriminalized in Virginia, Here’s What That Means For You.


Stella Gunn, News Editor

This past May, Marijuana was set to be decriminalized in the state of Virginia which went into effect July 1st. Well, what exactly does decriminalized mean? Is this a good thing? Does decriminalized mean it’s legal? How does this affect minorities or other targeted groups who are commonly discriminated against? : We sought to answer all these questions, while also hearing the thoughts of the Charlottesville High School community. This topic is broad and has many underlying issues based around race. The laws around marijuana and how they affect us are very political, so having an understanding of the issue is crucial. 

To begin, possession of Marijuana is still illegal, but the penalty for possession of an ounce or less has been changed to a maximum fine of $25. This is a drastic change because, in the past, people faced arrest and even jail time for possession along with fines of up to $500. This may give people a sense of security, but there is still a lot of legal danger around marijuana. Having more than an ounce, growing, selling, or distributing all still pose major penalties, sometimes facing one to forty years in prison. 

Another impact of these new laws are on records. The police departments have been told to seal all past charges of possession under an ounce. Charges that happened after these new laws were set in place will not be sent to the Central Criminal Records Exchange. This doesn’t mean records of possession are gone forever. In fact, with a private background search, these past convictions will be quite accessible. The only real difference is now it cannot be required for an  individual to disclose information about their past charges during job interviews. 

Many people are still not satisfied with Virginia’s move to delay complete legalization. It is a common thought that without legalization, minorities will continue to be targeted. Decriminalizing marijuana is a step in the right direction, but it won’t necessarily change how police officers act in relation to the drug and minorities. Legalization would end the biased searches and sentences. Decriminalization may not be as effective, but it does lessen the charges, making it harder to imprison people for such an insignificant crime. 

As far as how these laws affect our C.H.S. community, not much has changed. As a minor it is still very much illegal to be in possession of marijuana, and the sentences may differ from the $25 fine an adult would face. On another note, having marijuana on or near school grounds can result in one to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $100,000, so you heard it here Black Knights: don’t bring marijuana to school.

Some student’s thoughts on the matter could help you form your own opinions. A Senior at Charlottesville High School, Niq Scott said,  “Decriminalization is extremely important because marijuana charges are used disproportionately more on BIPOCs than white people. There are hundreds, if not thousands of black and POCs in jail for weed, while violent white criminals get probation and that’s it. Decriminalization also is good because it still [makes] weed illegal for people who strongly feel it should be illegal, and it also gives some leeway for firm marijuana users.” 

Another student in the 10th grade said:“I think it’s mandatory to decriminalize marijuana, because hundreds of people are put in jail for small amounts, and the police target minorities and imprison them for years for misdemeanors. It’s eerily similar to the war on drugs in the 70s that specifically targeted minorities in low income areas (that could only afford crack), whereas white people (who could afford cocaine) were persecuted way less.”

Reece McKee, another senior at C.H.S, when asked about the prospect of legalization said: 

“I personally have no interest in smoking marijuana, but it’s far less harmful than cigarettes or drugs, so I don’t really care if other people do.  Additionally, it would allow the government to tax it, creating a new source of income.”

C.H.S. students make some good points, and although there are many different perspectives on this issue, it’s incredibly important to do your own research and stay safe. Stay informed on the current laws, and advocate for what you believe in.