Calls for reform are growing louder in Virginia after the State Police (VSP) released statistics showing marijuana arrests are at their highest level in two decades. The VSP reported nearly 29,000 arrests for marijuana offenses in 2018.

The report did not pinpoint what is causing the increase in enforcement over marijuana possession, but the results have led to increased calls for decriminalizing the drug by some lawmakers, including state Attorney General Mark Herring, according to the Washington Post.

Drug arrest data

Marijuana arrests have tripled since 1999 and accounted for nearly 60% of the 48,942 drug arrests in Virginia in 2018. Here are the top five categories:

  • Marijuana: 28,866
  • Unknown drug type: 6,313
  • Amphetamines/meth: 3,483
  • Cocaine: 2,539
  • Heroin: 2,446

Young people and African Americans are arrested most often

Nearly half of all those arrested were between the ages of 18 and 24 (13,318), while 8,649 were in the 25 to 34 age group. A 2017 study by the Virginia Crime Commission found African Americans made up 46% of all marijuana arrests from 2007 to 2016 even though they represent only 20% of the state’s population.

A first-time marijuana conviction of half an ounce or less in the Old Dominion state is a misdemeanor that can bring a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail. Multiple arrests can each bring a year behind bars and a $2,500 fine. Possession of over half an ounce is a felony that can result in a $2,500 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

Defending your future

A drug conviction can cause untold personal and financial hardships for you and your family. An experienced criminal defense attorney here in Virginia will protect your rights over due process as well as search and seizure methods by officers. An effective legal defense can lead to reduced penalties and, in some cases, charges being dropped.