Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Introduced

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Introduced

RICHMOND, VA A bill has been filed in the Virginia Senate that would decriminalize marijuana, reducing the penalty for possessing marijuana to a civil violation, punishable by only a finewithoutarrest, jail time, or criminal record.

State SenatorAdam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) introduced the measure, Senate Bill 1269, last week. If passed, SB 1269 would set fines for marijuana possession at $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, or $500 for a third or subsequent offense.

Under current Virginia law, possession of marijuana is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. First time offenders face a maximum fine of $500 and up to 30 days in jail. Subsequent offenses can bring fines up to $2500 and jail time of up to one year.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), marijuana possession arrests have increased 76 percent from 2003 through 2014, with police currently making over 22,000 marijuana possession arrests per year.

The number of African Americans arrested for possessing marijuana in Virginia climbed from 4,991 in 2003 to 10,293 in 2014, which represents an increase of 106 percent, NORML says. In 2013, African Americans accounted for nearly half (47 percent) of all marijuana possession arrests in Virginia, but comprised only 20 percent of the state population.

Sen. Ebbin has filed similar bills in previous years, only to see those bills die in the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice, where SB ...

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