Virginia Lawmakers Shut Down Decriminalization Bill

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Things are not looking promising for the 85 percent of Virginia’s voters that support medical marijuana. Although Governor Ralph Northam supports decriminalization, a bill to grant people with certain illnesses access to medical marijuana passed the state senate prior to its deadlocked vote in the House. Was this the result of partisan politics?

“It’s definitely not a party issue,” insisted Nikki Narduzzi, a Republican who serves on the state’s chapter of NORML, or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. NORML represents in the General Assembly most Virginians who oppose the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in favor of decriminalizing possession and regulating in-state medical and adult-use.

We may beg to differ.

On Monday, Virginia’s lawmakers had the chance to pass a popular marijuana reform measure, to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Just a few days prior, lawmakers prevented the passing of a similar bill that would have reduced possession charges of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. The results of Monday’s vote were nine Republicans against it and 6 Democrats in favor.

According to some, it looks as though someone got to Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment, who previously classified himself as a supporter of decriminalization. The Republican “flipped positions,” according to a paper following his discovery that a decriminalization bill wouldn’t make it out of committee. Norment is now giving the image that he is being practical and those who are seeking more reform as fanatics.

“There are always those enthusiasts who want to lambaste you for having no guts,” he said in the paper.

It’s more likely that Norment backed off after speaking to the state organization representing prosecutors. The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys was an official opponent of decriminalization and if the bill passed it could mean that over 130,000 people that were arrested for marijuana possession in the ten years might not be in the criminal justice system. This is something that the prosecutors didn’t discuss, though.

What they did say, as per the paper:

David Ledbetter, Waynesboro commonwealth’s attorney, spoke on behalf of the prosecutors’ association. He said decriminalization would lead to more people driving while impaired by marijuana, would lead to increased use by adolescents and an increase of ingestion by toddlers.

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