From a press release issued by Toscano Law Group
On June 23, Toscano Law Group launched its “Clear the Smoke, Virginia” initiative to demystify the Commonwealth’s complicated rules which go into effect on July 1. The initiative’s primary objective is to help citizens of Hampton Roads understand the law and avoid arrest.
“Citizens of Hampton Roads should know: Before you inhale, it’s important to clear the smoke on what’s legal,” says Toscano Law Group founder Diane Toscano, Esq. “We’re stepping in to provide a resource to the public before citizens find themselves in legal jeopardy.”
As part of the “Clear the Smoke, Virginia” initiative, Toscano Law Group is sharing what the new laws mean in layman’s terms. This answers the public’s most pressing questions about what is legal and what is not. For example, many Virginians want to know, “Can I smoke a joint or blunt in public?”
“We asked real people what they wanted to know most about the new marijuana laws–and that inspired the information on ‘Clear the Smoke, Virginia,’” says Toscano. “The number of people offending existing marijuana laws in Hampton Roads is staggering, and many people are unclear about the changes that go into effect on July 1.”
According to the most recently available data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting in 2019, there were 21,734 arrests for marijuana possession across Virginia. The new law, which was passed by the General Assembly earlier this year, legalizes the possession of up-to-an ounce of marijuana and reduces the penalty for repeat violators of simple possession. However, it remains illegal to possess more than an ounce, sell marijuana, or grow more than four plants, among many other restrictions.
Kelly Cournoyer, Esq., a marijuana and criminal defense lawyer at Toscano Law Group, says when people hear marijuana has been “legalized” they must be careful not to assume its possession and use is without repercussions. “Although marijuana is now legal to possess in a small amount, it’s easy to run afoul of the complicated restrictions,” explains Cournoyer. “It’s going to be challenging for law enforcement to apply these laws and for judges to rule consistently in these cases. I expect we’re going to see many appeals as the state criminal justice system sorts out the implementation.”
There are some quirks in the law as written and statutes that appear incompatible. For example, a person may grow four plants, but they are prohibited from buying the seeds or cuttings from which the plants would grow. But Toscano hopes that the “Clear the Smoke, Virginia” initiative will help people avoid being involved in the criminal justice system in the first place.
“It’s no secret defense attorneys make a living helping people after they’ve already gotten into trouble,” says Toscano. “To us, it’s a matter of fairness, so we’ve decided to help educate people in our own community to avoid violating the new law unwittingly. And ignorance of the law is never a valid defense.”
Additional information can be found at ClearTheSmokeVA.com. The law firm also plans to run digital ads as part of the “Clear the Smoke, Virginia” initiative to educate the public.