Charlottesville Residents For Decriminalization Of Marijuana Seek Reform

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Group Seeks Less Strict Weed Laws

Residents advocate minimized legal repercussions for possession, attempt to lower drug’s degree of priority

By Callie Herod

A group attempting to minimize the legal repercussions which accompany the possession of marijuana approached Charlottesville City Council Monday with a resolution which aims to direct law enforcement away from marijuana prosecutions. The group, Charlottesville Residents for Decriminalization of Marijuana, hopes to redirect City police resources away from targeting marijuana offenses and toward addressing other criminal activity.

Charlottesville resident Jordan McNeish founded the group after spending six months in Albemarle County prison for the possession of marijuana.

“I did six months and it cost a bunch of money,” McNeish said. “And it infuriated me that we spent tax dollars this way. I noticed that there hasn’t been anything done in the state of Virginia to address this issue.”

McNeish said the group’s ultimate goal is to decriminalize marijuana by requiring police to charge those found in possession with a city ordinance violation rather than a state offense. Although all state laws and city ordinances can vary in their degrees of punishment from small fines to jail time, city ordinance violations generally carry lighter sentences than if someone were to break a state law.

Council cannot legalize marijuana in Charlottesville because of a policy known as Dillon’s Rule, but the Council can make marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority, McNeish said. Dillon’s Rule gives state drug law precedence over city drug law, but does not specify or require a particular punishment.

Second-year Law student Thomas Silverstein is the founder of the University Law School’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

He said he showed his support for the proposed resolution at the Council meeting. He believed the resolution would be a practical way of implementing policy reform at a local level and feels “cautiously optimistic” about the proposal’s chance of success.

“[Council member] Dave Norris seemed very amenable to it and said he would support the resolution when it’s on the agenda,” Silverstein said. “All of the other council members said they would keep an open mind.”

Charlottesville mayor Satyendra Huja said he is not yet sure about his stance on the resolution.

“I need to leave the resolution and see what the implications are before I can make a decision,” he said.

Source: The Cavalier Daily