While the public perception of marijuana evolves in Virginia and nationwide, law enforcement continues to target people for marijuana possession. The political director for NORML said that 20 percent of the nation's population lives in places that have legalized the drug's recreational use. He criticized the increase in marijuana arrests as a "cruel prohibition that ruins lives". He said that the actions of law enforcement defied public attitudes and basic morality.
According to a report prepared by the FBI, marijuana arrests rose from 653,249 in 2016 to 659,700 in 2017. Law enforcement appeared to be focusing on people possessing the substance instead of selling it. Arrests associated with trafficking fell between 2016 and 2017 from 65,734 to 60,418.
The federal policies director at the Marijuana Policy Project called the application of law enforcement resources to marijuana misguided when the opioid epidemic was killing people every day. Statistics collected by the FBI attributed 40.4 percent of all 2017 drug arrests to marijuana.
Although the public largely views marijuana as a benign offense, a person could still experience long-term negative consequences if convicted on possession charges. The representation of an attorney might help a person evaluate how to respond in court when presented with charges. An attorney might strive to defend the person's rights by questioning the actions of law enforcement, requesting the dismissal of criminal charges or suggesting a plea deal for a reduced charge. The advice of an attorney might prevent a person from admitting guilt when a prosecutor has applied unnecessarily harsh charges. With the advocacy of an attorney, a person might avoid jail time and a conviction on charges that could limit employment and educational opportunities in the future.