Every year, more and more states adopt a more progressive marijuana policy that weakens penalties for minor possession charges. Virginia could be the next one to do so.
The Virginia Senate majority leader Tommy Norment says he plans to introduce a bill in the near future that will decriminalize marijuana for first-time offenses. Norment's proposal is in response to a study given to the state's Crime Commission that outlined how marijuana prohibition has affected the state. According to the report, over 100,000 people from 2007 to 2016 were arrested on first-offense cannabis charges.
Norment, a Republican, says he's seen how marijuana charges have ruined the lives of young people throughout Virginia. However, he says he still will not support for legalization.
Under Norment's proposal, a first-time marijuana charge would lead to a civil fine, a suspension of a driver's license and a mandatory education program. All subsequent charges would lead to jail time. Norment also said that while the state would keep data on first offenses, it would only be accessible by prosecutors and the courts, meaning it would not show up on that person's public records and impede their ability to find employment, apply for federal housing or any other ways it could possibly ruin their lives.
Norment's proposal isn't a particularly radical bill. Some states have completely decriminalized all marijuana crimes except for some very rare cases. But it's still a step in the right direction.
Although people in Virginia shouldn't start celebrating yet. Norment says he gives his bill only a "50-50" chance of actually passing the legislature.
Let's hope this isn't just a symbolic gesture.
(h/t The Virginian Pilot)