Marijuana laws are changing across the United States. More and more, there is a rise in its legalization for recreational use. In Virginia, however, change is slow in coming. The commonwealth changed its laws on July 1 allowing people to have four plants without facing the prospect of arrest. Still, people are vulnerable to charges and even prosecutors are unsure of how to implement the new law, its limits and what their options are. With that, it is vital for those who find themselves facing charges to be cognizant of their rights and to forge a strong defense regardless of the circumstances.
Amid changes, confusion abounds in current marijuana laws
Legal experts are expressing consternation as to how the new Virginia cannabis laws are changing the landscape. One example is a case in which a man was facing felony charges for marijuana. During the case, a lack of consistency in the law was referenced as worrisome. The 57-year-old man was found to have more than 50 marijuana plants in his possession. Most were in his home, but nine were in his truck. This was far more than the four plants people are legally allowed to have. The man also had around 1.5 pounds of marijuana harvested and bagged.
The case would normally have been a felony, but a deal reduced it to two misdemeanors. He received a 10-day jail sentence and was fined. Initially, he was set to spend a year in jail, but most of that was suspended. The fine was for $1,000. Because it was a non-violent offense and the man did not have a serious criminal record, he received a lighter sentence in the plea deal. Still, there is growing fear as to how different jurisdictions will address marijuana cases because of the lack of clarity as to what constitutes distribution and private use. For those confronted with allegations that they were distributing it, felony charges are likely.
The new law and how it is enforced muddles criminal cases
There is a disparity between the right to grow marijuana legally and how much can be produced. To make matters worse, supply shops are giving seeds to people free of charge. In this case, the man had been given 50 to 100 marijuana seeds free of charge after the law went into effect. People find themselves dealing with felony charges for simply growing marijuana and going beyond the legal limit when they did not have any intention to do so, nor were they planning to distribute it.
Those 21 and older can have an ounce of marijuana for their own use and not face arrest for it. If it is more than one ounce but less than one pound, there is a fine of up to $25. The current intent in Virginia is for purchase and buying of marijuana to be legalized on Jan. 1, 2024. Sharing it is legal if it is given away for free and it is less than one ounce. Arrests have declined markedly in various areas of the commonwealth as the laws have changed.
People can still be arrested for marijuana and need a strong defense
Even with the new laws and reduction in enforcement for marijuana, people are still being arrested for drug crimes related to it. Since even law enforcement and prosecutors are unsure of how to deal with these accusations, it is no surprise that people facing allegations of wrongdoing are unsure of what law they violated and the potential penalties that accompany a conviction. With that, it is wise to have a comprehensive defense from the start to try and achieve a positive outcome.