Virginia lawmakers are pushing a piece of modest marijuana reform this session that would eliminate the possibility of a person losing their driver’s license based on a conviction for marijuana possession.
According to a report from Capital News Service, there has been some action in the House and Senate to eliminate that pesky portion of the state’s current law that insists a person should not be allowed the privilege of operating a motor vehicle if they happen to get busted holding a little weed.
Last week, in a vote of 38-to-2, the Senate approved a measure supported by Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin and Republican Senator Bill Stanley intended to change this portion of the law. A House version of the bill, filed by Delegate Les Adams, also made some progress—successfully finding its way out of meeting with a leading subcommittee.
It is no secret that Virginia has some of the most severe pot laws in the nation.
First offenders caught with less than a half ounce of the herb can be slapped with a misdemeanor drug charge, which comes with a punishment of up to 30 days in jail and fines reaching $500.
What’s more is the state continues to punish these people long after they are released from the slammer—suspending their driver’s license for six months—even if they accept a plea deal and take part in a deferment program.
Reports show that nearly 40,000 people in Virginia lose their driving privileges every year as a result of drug related offense—most of which are for minor marijuana possession.
The goal of these bills is to ensure adult pot offenders are given a second chance after violating the state’s drug laws. After all, the loss of a driver’s license can prevent the afflicted from maintaining gainful employment and taking care of other important responsibilities.
Unfortunately, the bills were not designed to be a saving grace for those minors taken down by small time pot possession. If passed, the language would still permit judges to suspend a juvenile’s license as part of his or her sentence. However, it would not be mandatory for the courts to impose this portion of the penalty.
Although there is some support for this reform in the General Assembly, it is only going to be permitted to move forward if it does not interfere with the state’s ability to receive federal funding. If this action goes the distance, the state would require confirmation from the U.S. Department of Transportation.