One of Virginia’s top lawmakers is currently working on legislation that would decriminalize marijuana throughout the state.
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, a Republican, says he’s in the process of drafting a bill that would remove the possibility of jail time for those caught possessing marijuana. The measure is likely to effect those caught possessing an ounce or less. Under current Virginia law, those caught possessing up to half an ounce of marijuana can be charged with a misdemeanor and imprisoned for up to 30 days; for subsequent offenses the potential jail time rises to a year. Possessing over half an ounce is a felony punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison.
Norment’s announcement that he’s working on a decriminalization measure comes shortly after the release of a State Crime Commission study which found that such a law would prevent over 10,000 arrests every year in Virginia. Not only would this save taxpayer money to persecute and imprison marijuana users, it will prevent the life-altering consequences associated with a marijuana misdemeanor.
According to the commission’s study, Virginia police have arrested more than 133,000 people on first-time marijuana offenses in the last decade alone.