VA. state senator proposes marijuana decriminalization law

A Virginia state senator has introduced a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the bill is sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin, a Democrat from Alexandria.

Under the proposal, the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana would be decriminalized. Currently, that’s punishable by a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

“It would decriminalize simple possession of an ounce or less, but not decriminalize it to the extent done recently in Colorado and Washington state,” he said.

Among other things, the bill also would reduce the criminal penalties for distribution and possession with the intent to distribute by creating a presumption that a person who grows no more than six plants would be raising them for personal use.

The bill would also soften some laws concerning marijuana paraphernalia and limit the forfeiture of property from the sale or distribution of 1 pound or more of marijuana. Currently, there is no minimum amount.

Virginia State Police figures show that in 2013, there were more than 24,000 marijuana arrests in the state.
“The criminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana ruins far more lives than it impacts in any kind of positive ways,” Ebbin said.
Edward McCann, policy director for Virginia NORML, which advocates for the legalization of marijuana, said the legislation is supported by the ACLU and the NAACP.

“This is not just a conversation starter; we need to pass this bill,” said Edward McCann, policy director for Virginia NORML, which advocates for the legalization of marijuana.. “We’ve been talking to many of the members. … I think there is general support for the core of the bill, which is removing criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts — even from Republicans.”

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