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New penalties may be on the way for small amounts of marijuana possession

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Hans Pennink
/
AP, File

Marijuana is now legal in Virginia in small amounts. But, new penalties could be on the horizon.

Possession of an ounce or less of pot is legal in Virginia. But if you have more than four ounces it can currently get you a $25 fine because it has a civil penalty. Governor Glenn Youngkin is now considering an effort to make more than four ounces a criminal offense – essentially criminalizing it again.

Todd Gathje at the Family Foundation says anything that reduces the availability of marijuana is a good thing.

"For families around the Commonwealth of Virginia, their concern is, what is this doing to their society? What is it doing to the streets in their localities? And so, this is one step that we believe is a step in the right direction to ensure that we keep as much of it off the street as possible," Gathje says.

But J.M. Pedini at Virginia NORML says re-criminalizing small amounts of marijuana is a mistake.

"Rather than creating additional ways to criminalize Virginians for personal possession of a now-legal substance, the General Assembly and Governor Youngkin could much better serve constituents by working to establish the remaining component of legalization," Pedini says. "And that's establishing a legal adult-use cannabis marketplace."

Earlier this year, House Republicans blocked an effort to create a marketplace for people to buy and sell marijuana. So it's currently legal to possess, but there's no way to legally buy it.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.