While the West has long led the way when it comes to progressive marijuana policies, the East Coast has unfortunately largely clung to the failed policies of the past. One place where that is obvious is the State of Virginia. In 2012 there were 23,402 marijuana-related arrests in Virginia, 89% of which were for simple possession. Getting caught with any amount of marijuana can lead to a $500 fine and a 30 jail sentence.
There are some lawmakers from Virginia want to change that. Per American University Radio:
Virginia was once the leading state of the tobacco empire, and tobacco leaves can be found in the architectural details here in the Capitol. But now a different plant is taking center stage.
“Criminalization of marijuana is a failure,” says state Senator Adam Ebbin, who is leading an effort to eliminate jail time for possession of the drug and make it punishable by a maximum $100 civil penalty. “It makes criminals out of regular non-violent citizens, and it financially burdens out commonwealth to the tune of $67 million a year in law-enforcement costs.”
The bill — which would follow similar efforts in D.C. and Maryland — would not change the criminal code as it relates to marijuana use and possession by children.
I can’t understand why there is even a debate in any state in America in regards to marijuana reform. Marijuana reform works. Marijuana reform helps cops focus on real crimes like rape and burglary. Any minute wasted in Virginia investigating, arresting, and prosecuting marijuana offenses is a minute that could have been dedicated to much more worthwhile things. I hope this decriminalization bill passes, and that legalization in Virginia soon to follow.