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Virginia Governor Calls For Marijuana Decriminalization In State Of The Commonwealth Speech

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Virginia would become the next state to decriminalize marijuana if one item on Gov. Ralph Northam’s wish list gets done this year.

“We want to keep people safe. But we shouldn’t use valuable law enforcement time, or costly prison space, on laws that don’t enhance public safety,” the governor said during his State of the Commonwealth speech on Wednesday night.

“So I’m proposing that we decriminalize simple possession of marijuana.”

“Current law imposes a maximum 30 days in jail for a first offense of marijuana possession,” Northam said to raucous applause. “Making simple possession a civil penalty will ease overcrowding in our jails and prisons, and free up our law enforcement and court resources for offenses that are a true threat to public safety.”

“One mistake won’t define Virginians for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Watch video of Northam’s marijuana comments, at about 51:10 into the video below:

The stepped up push for cannabis decriminalization from Northam, who campaigned on the issue during his 2017 election bid, comes as Virginia lawmakers are considering a number of far-reaching marijuana proposals.

On Tuesday, two lawmakers filed separate bills to go even further than the governor’s suggestion of decriminalizing possession by completely legalizing marijuana and creating a taxed and regulated system of production and sales.

Virginia Lawmakers Add Full Legalization To Growing List of Marijuana Bills Being Consideration

Photo courtesy of Ralph Northam.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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