Being arrested for a nonviolent crime, such as drug possession, may not seem like a big deal, but it can impact the entire life of a convicted person. Even if a individual manages to avoid prison time, having an arrest and conviction on his or her record can make it more difficult to have the life that he or she desires. The citizens of Virginia got some good news last month when possession of small amounts of marijuana was decriminalized. However, some say the law needs to go further and totally legalize the drug. Doing so could change how a significant number of drug charges in this state are handled.

The new law went into effect at the start of July. Those found with less than an ounce of marijuana on their person are subject to a $25 fine. This is in stark contrast to the earlier law where those with just half an ounce could receive a $500 fine and a 30-day jail sentence.

However, the mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney, believes the drug should be fully legalized. He argues that these arrests often impact Black citizens to a greater degree. Opponents fear that legalization could be enforced differently across Virginia, which may still negatively impact more vulnerable populations. Still, one study suggests that up to two-thirds of adults in this country support legalization, and with growing support on both sides of the political spectrum, many think it could be a significant part of criminal justice reform.

For now, marijuana is not fully legal, and those found with more than just an ounce could be subject to punishment through the criminal justice system. Even after they serve their sentence, a criminal record can make it more difficult for them to obtain employment or housing. Those here in Virginia facing any kind of drug charges may want to consult a criminal defense attorney who can give them the best chance at fair treatment by the legal system.