Virginia Lawmakers Give Green-Light to Studying Marijuana …

Steve Burns

RICHMOND – (WMAL) The Virginia Crime Commission is giving the green light to a study looking at the potential effects of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana in the Commonwealth. It comes after Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) requested the study last year, and after lawmakers started making a more concerted effort to change possession penalties.

“I think it will be instructive to Virginia to thoroughly review the experience of other states as we move forward, hopefully, to marijuana decriminalization,” State Sen Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) told WMAL after the decision. “We’ve got some catching up to do.”

Ebbin has long been a proponent of relaxing marijuana laws, and said Virginia has lagged behind other states in updating both its laws and general understanding of marijuana.

“The prohibition of marijuana has failed and gives tens of thousands of Virginians criminal records that cannot be erased,” he said. “That has a lasting impact on their lives and careers.”

Ebbin also mentioned numerous studies that find marijuana to be less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco.

While marijuana-related laws used to be known as a party line issue, supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans, Ebbin said times are changing in Richmond.

“Our Senate Majority Leader had requested the study, and we’ve had some bipartisan support for medical marijuana,” he said.

All but one of the major candidates for governor in this fall’s election have also signaled their support for decriminalization.

“Just the fact that the candidates are comfortable staking out that position says a lot,” Ebbin said. “I think the people of Virginia are far ahead of the General Assembly on this one.”

Ebbin acknowledged there will be roadblocks from “people who feel very strongly that marijuana is not to be decriminalized in any fashion,” but said supporters have to be patient.

“This is a process, in terms of changing the code, that will take years, not just one year. But the study shows that people are open to making this years and not decades.”

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