City of Bluefield plans to change marijuana law

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 3:13 PM EST
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BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WVVA) - Changes in Bluefield’s marijuana law are coming as a result of Virginia making simple possession legal in 2021.

City Attorney Anthony Heltzel said the change is needed because Bluefield currently has an ordinance in place that could mean jail time for simple possession of 15 grams or less, which is the legal limit in Virginia.

The change would eliminate the possibility of incarceration for possession of that amount and saw its first reading at Tuesday’s city board meeting.

“With Virginia changing their marijuana laws … and we are a border city, a lot of our streets weave in and out of West Virginia and Virginia,” Heltzel said. “If you have a Virginia resident who has lawfully obtained their marijuana of 15 grams or less and is traveling down Stadium Drive … they are legal in their state but because the roadway ventures into … Bluefield where it is not legal it causes potential problems for those people.”

But, he added, anyone charged could still possibly face a fine of up to $1000 because marijuana remains illegal in West Virginia, other than medical marijuana.

This ordinance change is only for Bluefield, Heltzel said, and the county law is the same as the state law, which does not include incarceration as a possible penalty for possession of 15 grams or less.

The state, and county, penalty (407 disposition) is no fine (only court costs) but a six-month probationary period, he said, and if the person has no problems during that probationary period the charge is dismissed and expunged from the record. But a jail possibility is also included.

“We are just trying to keep up with the changes in marijuana laws,” Heltzel said. “It does not make it legal here by any means. It is still illegal here unless you have a medical marijuana card.”

The city board will also consider changing the possession of paraphernalia law, which would remove the possibility of incarceration for that charge as well, he added.

Heltzel said the board will hear the second, and final, reading of the possession ordinance change at the Nov. 28 meeting and also the first reading of the change in the paraphernalia possession penalty.

Recreational use of marijuana is now legal in 24 states and Washington, D.C.