Despite the fact that much of the country has relaxed the laws surrounding the use and possession of small amount of marijuana for personal medicinal or recreational use -- Virginia is not one of those states.
Furthermore, there is no legal minimum that will net a drug charge -- even the end of a blunt or a few loose leaves can be enough to sustain a marijuana possession charge.
It's also important to understand that while a first offense is generally treated gently enough with the equivalent of a legal slap on the wrist, subsequent offenses can end up costing you a lot more dearly.
This is what you should know about Virginia marijuana laws:
1. The first time you are convicted of possession, you can only receive a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail.
Unless you spent the 30 days waiting on your hearing because you couldn't make bail, the odds are high that the judge will suspend the majority of your time -- assuming that you have an otherwise clean criminal record and are appropriately contrite when you appear in court.
2. If you're caught with the drug a second time, the penalty gets a lot harsher. It's considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is just one step from a felony.
You can now spend up to 1 year in jail and receive a maximum fine of $2,500. In addition, you no longer have a clean record to help you with the judge when it comes to asking for a break.
3. It's important to hire an attorney to handle a drug possession charge, even if it is a first offense. If you're convicted, you face additional problems (depending on your personal circumstances):
- The potential for deportation if you are here as either an undocumented or documented alien -- it takes very little in the current political climate to get deported
- The potential loss of your scholarship, financial aid or event the ability to live in student housing
- It may be harder to find employment with a drug conviction, even a misdemeanor, on your record.
An attorney who handles drug possession cases can provide more information on how to address your marijuana charge.
Source: FindLaw, "Virginia Marijuana Laws," accessed Sep. 18, 2017