Black people are still more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related crimes in Virginia despite adult-use legalization, the Washington Post reports. The reforms took effect July 1, 2021, and while arrests for cannabis have dropped overall, Black adults accounted for nearly 60% of such cases before the state’s district and circuit courts, according to the Post analysis.
Black people account for about 20% of Virginia’s population. The bulk of the arrests is for distribution as legal sales have not yet commenced in the state. During the first year of legalization, possession of more than an ounce was a civil penalty carrying a $25 fine; however, following his election, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin proposed and signed into law a bill creating misdemeanor charges for possession of more than four ounces.
The Post’s data was from a list of more than 1,700 cannabis-related code citations between July 1, 2021, and the end of June this year, provided by the Supreme Court of Virginia’s Office of the Executive Secretary in response to a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request. The analysis found, overall, cannabis-related citations dropped about 90% in Virginia from 2019.
According to the Post analysis, Chesterfield County General District Court had the second highest number of arrests in the state behind Virginia Beach General District Court. In Chesterfield, Black defendants comprised 71% of the court’s 110 cannabis-related cases in the year following legalization. In the state’s most populous county, Fairfax, Black defendants made up just over 30% of the 108 cannabis-related cases in the year following legalization, the report says.
In 2019, there were more than 26,000 cannabis-related arrests in Virginia. In 2020, that figure dropped to about 13,000 and fell to just over 2,000 in 2021, which included the six months after the adult-use reforms took effect.
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