The Virginia House and Senate each approved a bill to expunge low-level cannabis crimes this week.
Senate Bill 5043 would give cannabis convicts the opportunity to have their police and court records wiped of their charges. According to an official summary, “The bill requires the person to have paid all court costs, fines, and restitution, and for five years to have elapsed since the date of conviction, depending on the nature of the offense.” The proposal would also allow for the expungement of other minor, non-cannabis crimes including the use of a fake ID to purchase alcohol.
House Bill 5146 would create a process for the “automated expungement” of records for criminal offenses that have been since been overruled or otherwise dismissed. Under the state’s recent decriminalization law, that would include simple cannabis possession.
Cannabis advocates hope that lawmakers will either advance both proposals or somehow consolidate the bills into a unified push to put expungement reforms on the governor’s desk.
“Taken together, these bills put forward significant reforms that hold the potential to transform Virginia’s expungement law from one of the worst in the country to one of the most robust and accessible. By passing and fully implementing these bills, policymakers can ensure that a life-changing, second chance is within reach for more Virginians and their families.” — Phil Hernandez, Senior Policy Fellow & Counsel for The Commonwealth Institute, via Blue Virginia
Expungement was just the latest cannabis topic addressed by Virginia lawmakers during the special summer session: the Senate advanced legislation last month that seeks to block police officers from using cannabis odor as grounds to search a vehicle, while a landmark decriminalization bill was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam (D) in April.
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