Effective in July, Virginia Legalizes Small Amounts of Marijuana

RICHMOND, Virginia Simple possession of up to one ounce of marijuana will be legal in Virginia, effective July 1. On Wednesday, the Virginia General Assembly approved Governor Ralph Northam’s proposal to expedite legalization from 2024 to later this year. But legislators warned that doesn’t mean there will be a marijuana free-for-all.

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Virginia State Senator Morrissey, Lt Gov. Fairfax Renew Call for Mandatory Minimum Sentences Repeal

State Sen Joe Morrissey and Lt Gov. Justin Fairfax

While the General Assembly passed some landmark progressive legislation in the 2021 session, including a death penalty repeal, one expected criminal justice reform died at the last minute. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) renewed calls for ending mandatory minimum sentences, except for murder of law enforcement officers, at a Monday press conference.

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Virginia Legislators Call for New Parole Board Investigation After More Details Leaked About Release of Man Convicted of Killing Police Officer

Legislators are calling for a new investigation into alleged misconduct by the Virginia Parole Board (VPB). Last summer, a leaked six-page report from the Office of the State Inspector General detailed how the VPB violated laws and policies when, in April 2020, it decided to parole Vincent Martin without giving his victims the required 50-day notice. Martin was serving a life sentence for killing police officer Michael Connors in 1979, and was released last June. But a new 13-page draft of the report leaked this week, first reported by WTVR, revealing more details about the alleged misconduct by the board and by former Chair Adrianne Bennett, who is now a judge.

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General Assembly Votes to Make Virginia First Southern State to Abolish Death Penalty

The Virginia General Assembly passed a death penalty repeal on Monday. Governor Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bills, which would make Virginia the first state in the South to ban capital punishment. Advocates have argued that the death penalty is vulnerable to wrongful conviction, is expensive, cruel, and applied unfairly, but opponents say some of the most heinous crimes require a death penalty to make sure the criminal doesn’t get free. During the 2021 session, House Republicans have emphasized the names of victims of particularly serious crimes, who they say are being ignored by Democrats.

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Legislation Eliminating Mandatory Minimum Sentences Passes Through Virginia Senate Committee

Legislation to remove most mandatory minimum sentences in Virginia advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday through a 9-6 party-line vote.

Senate Bill 1443 would end the mandatory minimum prison time for more than 200 crimes in the Commonwealth that carry the specific punishments, including assault and battery, rape and other sexual crimes, drug distribution and possession, child pornography as well as driving under the influence (DUI).

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