Lawmakers in Virginia voted earlier this month to no longer punish the possession of small amounts of marijuana with jail time. For people who possess up to one ounce of pot, they'll face a fine of $25. That's a significant change from the current laws where even possessing half an ounce of cannabis can result in a $500 fine and 30 days in jail. 

The bill got strong support from both parties. It passed the House by a vote of 56 to 36 and in the Senate it saw an even more convincing win with a vote of 27 to 12 in favor of the bill. All that remains is the sign off from Gov. Ralph Northam who's been in favor of an earlier version of the bill. With his approval, the law could go in effect by July 1, 2020.

It's important to remember that decriminalizing cannabis is not the same as legalization. Although low-level users of marijuana won't go to jail under the new bill, recreational marijuana use remains illegal in Virginia. The state does have a medical marijuana program. 

Cannabis plant.

Image source: Getty Images.

Changing marijuana laws create opportunities across the country

It's too early to tell if decriminalizing marijuana will lead to legalization in Virginia but one company that may be keeping a close eye on the situation is Curaleaf Holdings (OTC:CURLF). The Massachusetts-based marijuana company has operations in 14 states and over 50 dispensaries. Its acquisition of cannabis brand Select has expanded the company's reach across the East and West coast. With a presence in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania, Virginia could make for a natural next step for Curaleaf as the company already has a strong footprint in the East.

On March 24, the pot stock will release its year-end results for 2019.