Residents of Virginia have until September 1 to provide the Virginia State Crime Commission their opinions on decriminalizing marijuana. The ongoing study results will be presented at a meeting on October 30. Following Councilman Paul Riddick’s support of decriminalization, the initiative has gained momentum.
Activist Cindy Cutler has personally spent four-years studying marijuana charges and penalties, according to WAVY 10 News. She said that some cities are spending millions of dollars to house inmates charged with marijuana crimes. However, Dr. Brian Payne of Old Dominion University, says it isn’t easy changing a state law.
Cutler said, “You could get up to 10 years in prison for a half-ounce of marijuana. The punishment does not meet the crime.”
Dr. Payne said, “It’s a political issue. There’s a longstanding belief that drug use is wrong and that it is immoral. There are people who believe that. There are people that believe that marijuana is a gateway drug and it leads to other type of drug use.”
Payne says the ongoing study reflects the state crime commission study’s proactive approach regarding the issue before providing recommendations.
Dr. Payne said, “I wouldn’t see it as a sure fire sign that it is going to happen, but the willingness to study it signifies there is an awareness that there is a possibility.”
There were 587 marijuana possession arrests in Norfolk in 2016, and 596 arrests in Newport News. Racial disparity is a main claim in the efforts for reform as reports indicate that African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana.
Cutler said, “We’ve followed 80 years of bad policy to overpopulate our jails and prisons and disproportionately harm people of color, the poor and the mentally ill.”
According to supporters, decriminalization is the first step forward in potentially regulating a legitimate marijuana industry.
Written letters can be sent to:
Virginia State Crime Commission
Patrick Henry Building
1111 East Broad Street, Suite B036
Richmond, VA 23219
Comments can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Emails are due to the office by 5p.m. on September 1.