Virginia’s House and Senate passed another bill further decriminalizing marijuana. Under the bill, the drug’s scent would no longer be a sufficient cause for searching a vehicle.
The House passed the bill in a 51-45 vote. On Friday, the Senate approved to substitute some of the language of the bill.
A previous bill decriminalizing marijuana passed in both the House and Senate earlier this year. That bill, authored by R. Creigh Deeds (D-Charlottesville) would expunge any records of illegal marijuana possession.
The latest bill, SB 5029, lowers the offense of marijuana possession from a primary to secondary offense. Other traffic violation standards are also embedded in the bill with lowered offenses: no lights on a license plate, noisy exhaust systems, excessive sun-shading or tinting films, and “objects suspended in the vehicle.”
Mainly, though, the law prohibits police from performing search and seizures based on smelling marijuana. The bill ensures that any evidence discovered through those means is inadmissible in court.
State Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) authored the bill. Lucas was arrested earlier this summer for a conspiracy to tear down a Confederate monument.
Democratic legislators praised the passage of Lucas’s bill.
“We just approved SB 5029 in final passage! One of the important criminal justice reform bills,” tweeted State Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Herndon).
However, not all legislators were keen on the passage.
State Senator Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) argued that the law poses some real dangers to upholding justice.
“If you killed somebody and stuffed them into the truck and the officer finds that because they smelled marijuana and asked you to search that doesn’t come in as evidence and you can’t be found guilty based on that search.”
Both bills are currently awaiting approval from Governor Ralph Northam.
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