RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Governor Ralph Northam’s office announced his support for the legalization of marijuana on Monday.
Early this year, the General Assembly approved legislation that decriminalized simple possession of marijuana in Virginia, a legislative priority pushed by Democrats and backed by the governor.
As of July 1, anyone caught with no more than an ounce would instead pay a $25 civil penalty and those who have had their cases dismissed in court could have their charges expunged. Under the old law, a first-time offender could serve up to 30 days in jail and be fined $500 for possessing less than half an ounce.
Legislation was also passed for a group to study and release a report on the impact of legalizing pot in Virginia.
In a letter sent to the governor earlier this year, The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia said decriminalization still allows marijuana charges to be used as a “a racist policing tool”
The fact is marijuana laws overwhelmingly target people in Black and Brown communities …The war on drugs has always been a war on people, particularly on people of color and experts point to policing practices and the racial history behind marijuana prohibition as leading to arrest disparities. Virginia must address and eliminate discriminatory police practices.The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, March 26, 2020
“The war on drugs has always been a war on people, particularly on people of color and experts point to policing practices and the racial history behind marijuana prohibition as leading to arrest disparities. Virginia must address and eliminate discriminatory police practices.”
The ACLU released a report in 2018 which showed the racial disparities between marijuana arrests from 2010 to 2018. They found Black people were 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people.
The ACLU’s study also found that states which decriminalized marijuana had lower racial disparities in possession arrests.
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