The Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is in Richmond today, lobbying legislators to support Sen. Adam Ebbin’s marijuana decriminalization bill.
Ebbin’s bill, SB 686, has been referred to the 15-member Courts of Justice Committee, and if it’s approved would need to be approved by the full Senate before going through the same process in the House of Delegates.
Both houses are controlled by Republicans, which has traditionally been the party opposing marijuana legalization efforts nationwide. For that reason, Ebbin and NORML are targeting decriminalization, instead of NORML’s preferred policy, recreational legalization.
“Decriminalization is the first step in the process of fully legalizing cannabis,” Virginia NORML writes on its website’s section for SB 686. “Virginia is slow to change its laws in general; it often takes several years to make any significant changes, and usually requires support from both Republicans and Democrats. Our goal is to make the simple change to stop charging people with a criminal misdemeanor for simple possession.”
More than 60 marijuana reform advocates converged on the state capital today to discuss the legislation with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. If it passes, Ebbin’s bill would reduce the penalty for marijuana possession from a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail to a $100 citation payable to the state’s Literary Fund. According to Ebbin’s legislation, Virginia currently spends $67 million a year investigating, prosecuting and jailing marijuana offenders.
“Criminalizing marijuana disrupts careers and families resulting in more harm than the drug itself and decriminalization is a commonsense step to allow law enforcement to focus its efforts on serious crimes,” Ebbin said in a press release.