Gov. Ralph Northam's legislation went into law this weekend. The new law exchanges criminal charges for simple possession of marijuana for a $25 civil penalty. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring says that this move is a step toward the full legalization of marijuana in the state.
"Decriminalization is an incredibly important first step, and one that many thought we may never see in Virginia, but we cannot stop until we have legal and regulated adult use," Herring said in a statement.
To aid in this transition, the new legislation ushers in a workgroup that will study the legalization of marijuana and eventually release a report on their findings. This comes after a measure to legalize the drug failed earlier this year. Yet, supporters of this legislation believe that the eventual legalization of marijuana will have a positive impact on the state's African American population which is disproportionately charged with drug crimes.
Virginia is now one of the 16 states that have decriminalized marijuana. Eleven states and Virginia's neighboring Washington, D.C. have fully legalized weed.