Virginia lawmakers have approved the proposed new regulations seeking to make police searches based on the smell of marijuana illegal. The new cannabis-smell restrictions on police law also contain different motor vehicle and law enforcement policy reforms.
The proposal stipulates that no enforcement officer may unlawfully stop, search, or seize any person, place, or thing based solely on the odor of marijuana, and no evidence discovered or obtained such unlawful search or seizure may be admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceedings.
When the proposal was presented to governor Ralph Northam last month, he reportedly didn’t receive it with the same element. Instead, he recommended a policy change on police stops for motorists driving at night with dysfunctioning brake lights and headlights.
The recommendations were accepted without additional changes by the legislature on Monday, leading to the companion House and Senate Bills being enrolled and given final approval. The new law will be formally enacted on March,1st 2021.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, development and executive director of Virginia NORML group, said the new law is yet another victory for common sense marijuana law reform in Virginia, adding that reducing non-essential interactions between enforcement and otherwise law-abiding Virginians is now more important than ever.
Pedini further pointed out that the only way to end the commonwealth’s failed experiments with prohibitions is to legalize the responsible use of cannabis by adults and begin undoing the damages done to young, poor, Black, and Brown Virginians for decades.
Governor Northam also signed a separate bill during a special session that would allow people issued summons for cannabis-related offenses under the state’s new decriminalization law to prepay their civil penalties without making a courtroom appearance.
When enacted, the two proposed reforms will enhance measures to decriminalize cannabis assigned by the governor this year, stipulating that possession of up to one ounce of marijuana attracts a $25 fine with threats of a prison sentence or criminal record.