The Impact of Virginia HB 972/SB 2 on Simple Marijuana Possession-Related Charges and Ban-the-Box

June 23rd, 2020 | Angela Preston, Senior Vice President and Counsel, Corporate Ethics and Compliance with Ryan Hannan, Compliance Associate

On May 21, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 972/SB 2 (the “Amendments”) to amend the Code of Virginia to decriminalize and reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession, and ban-the-box for related charges. Effective July 1, 2020, the Amendments decriminalize possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, by granting a rebuttable presumption that these amounts are possessed for personal use. As such, generally, those found to be in possession of up to 1 ounce will be subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25.

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Change in Charge Reporting and Disclosures

In addition to decriminalization and penalty reductions, the Amendments include new rules around how simple possession charges are reported and considered. Since such charges are reduced to civil penalties, they will no longer be reported to the Central Criminal Records Exchange and prior charges and convictions will generally no longer be available for public inspection or disclosure. However, if an individual is charged while operating a commercial vehicle, it may still be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles and included on their driving record.

Furthermore, all Virginia employers and educational institutions will be prohibited from requiring applicants to disclose any arrest, charge, or conviction information related to simple marijuana possession, and applicants are granted the right to refuse to disclose if asked. Exceptions to these prohibitions include applications for firearms purchases, as well as EMS, law enforcement, and probation and sentencing authority positions. Willful violations of the prohibitions are subject to Class 1 misdemeanor charges.

Virginia employers and educational institutions should consult with their legal counsel to review their current practices and make the necessary changes in light of the Amendments.

The full text of HB 972/SB 2 can be found here.

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The information contained herein is for informational purposes only.  Clients are encouraged to consult with their legal counsel on the impact of this new law. Sterling (criminal background checks) is not a law firm, and none of the information contained in this notice is intended as legal advice.

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Sterling is not a law firm. This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be construed as legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out this information. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.