Marijuana Decriminalization Bills Fail in Virginia

Two bills meant to relax criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Virginia did not pass a House Delegates subcommittee on Monday, January 25. Virginia has some of the harshest penalties for marijuana possession, which can range up to $500 fines and 30 days in jail. Furthermore, Virginia is the only state in which arrests for marijuana possession have been rising. While arrest rates have dropped 6.5 percent nationwide between 2003 and 2014, arrest rates increased 76 percent in Virginia.

Virginia state lawmakers Mark Levine and Stephen Heretick filed the bills separately with Rep. Levine noting that “when you have half of the population violating a law, it’s a law that’s not working.” This sentiment is clearly in practice in nearby Washington, D.C. where marijuana arrests have dropped 90 percent. In another blow to responsible decriminalization laws, the subcommittee also slapped down a bill filed by Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) that would have eliminated the six-month driver’s license suspension for adults convicted of simple possession.

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