Punishment changes take effect Saturday for marijuana possession

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Getting convicted of marijuana possession could have lesser consequences beginning Saturday.

Earlier this year, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed HB 2051 and SB 1091 into law.

The bill eliminates the punishment of automatically suspending the driver’s license of adults convicted of simple marijuana possession.

Starting July 1, a judge will have the option to either suspend the license or sentence you to community service, if convicted of simple possession.

Marijuana decriminalization advocates say the law is vital to some people.

“Lower income individuals, nearly 40 percent according to reports, their jobs is dependent explicitly on them having a driver’s license," Daniel Rouleau, Deputy Director of Virginia NRML, said. "The loss of the license is just an unfortunately they have to be let go because they don’t have the requisite requirements for employment. “

When he was 22, Rouleau was convicted of marijuana possession.

“The effects of that possession charge I was unable to fully anticipate based on the $100 fine the full impact it has on an individual. Between the financial support of some of my family and the ability to catch rides with people I knew who had cars I was able to overcome it," Rouleau explained.

Rouleau told News 3 this is a major step in criminal justice reform efforts for cannabis law.

“Fines not crimes could be realized in 2018. Rather than a criminal penalty that last and has to be explained for years – a simple fine that says Virginia does not approve but we don’t want to punish you indefinitely," Rouleau explained.

The rule doesn’t apply to juveniles.

The law will take effect on July 1st if the state does not lose federal funds.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has yet to decide on that.