Richmond, VA — In a unanimous decision on Wednesday, the Virginia Senate's Courts of Justice Committee voted 15–0 in favor of advancing a crucial bill, SB 115, aimed at preventing the use of marijuana alone as evidence of child abuse or neglect. The proposed legislation, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D), seeks to shield parents and guardians from potential discrimination linked to cannabis use and possession, legalized in the commonwealth in 2021.
If enacted into law, SB 115 would establish that drug testing in child custody and visitation cases must exclude substances permitted for lawful use by adults under Virginia's alcohol, cannabis, and drug laws. The bill explicitly states that a person's “lawful possession or consumption” of these substances should not be grounds to restrict custody or visitation, unless other circumstances indicate that such actions are not in the child's best interest.
A Department of Planning and Budget summary of the legislation reveals that an enactment clause would instruct the state Board of Social Services to modify its regulations, guidance documents, and other materials to align with the provisions of the bill. The department assures that these changes would have no fiscal impact.
A parallel measure, HB 833, secured passage in the House of Delegates with a 56–43 vote last month.
Chelsea Higgs Wise, representing the advocacy group Marijuana Justice, expressed optimism about the bill's prospects. She noted that suggestions from the governor's administration, received last year, were considered alongside feedback from the Senate committee. Wise emphasized the importance of evolving beyond outdated prohibition laws to preserve family unity and underscored the bill's significance in ending the drug war and fostering decriminalization for the survival of communities targeted by law enforcement.
“We are excited that outdated prohibition laws are being changed in order to keep families together,” Wise stated. “This is an important part of ending the drug war and decriminalization that’s critical for generational survival in communities targeted by law enforcement.”
This story was originally covered by Marijuana Moment.