The 2018 marijuana case statistics for the state of Virginia released to the public. For the year, more than 46,000 cases dealing with marijuana faced prosecution. The majority of the defendants were minorities leading many lawmakers to reconsider the current laws surrounding marijuana.
The state saw over 46,000 marijuana cases and found 20,000 defendants guilty. The only other case set that came close to the same number for 2018 were for traffic violations. Some of these 46,000 cases were from prior years, but the year still saw over 31,000 cases.
Many of those defendants were African American, disproportionate to the number of residents in the state. Even though most of the possession charges were misdemeanors, the effects can harm their job prospects. Those convicted could see a host of opportunities lost with the misdemeanor showing on their criminal record.
A new legislative session begins in January of 2020 with Democrats in control of the General Assembly. Many lawmakers are considering marijuana decriminalization with some shooting for legalization. Reducing marijuana possession penalties would have far-reaching effects in the state.
The proposed legislation would make small marijuana possessions a civil violation rather than a criminal offense. Decriminalizing the plant could have positive effects on the African American community. For every 100,000 African Americans in the state, over 1,400 faced charges dealing with marijuana. They also have a greater than 50% chance of being found guilty.
With nearly 29,000 marijuana arrests in 2018, the state had the most arrests in 20 years. Until the law changes, defendants may have better luck facing criminal charges with an experienced attorney.