Virginia is among the only few states in the United States where marijuana is illegal for all purposes and possession of even small amounts is a criminal misdemeanor.
Keeping in view of the progress made by other states, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has urged the state to move ahead on the path to marijuana legalization.
He reportedly published an op-ed in Virginia newspaper, The Daily Press, on Saturday, advising lawmakers to “decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, address past convictions and start moving toward legal and regulated adult use.”
The article was perhaps intended towards Virginia’s House Republicans who have constantly blocked most legislation that would open easy access to cannabis and reduce marijuana-related penalties.
Although hopes were high at the beginning of this year, the state assembly just shook its head on two different plans aimed at legalizing cultivation and personal use.
Fortunately enough though, the state Senate did pass a bill in February that allowed school nurses to administer medical marijuana to students. Also, the same week SB 1157 received the go-ahead, which authorized nurses and doctors to recommend CBD oil and THC-A only after a thorough assessment of the patient’s health condition.
Notably, until 2018, only patients with intractable epilepsy were prescribed the drug. However, post a few amendments, the law allowed practitioners to recommend marijuana for any condition they deemed necessary.
In his write-up, Herring has also highlighted a few facts and figures worth noting. The marijuana arrest numbers have surged by 115% between 2003 and 2017, the same period in which the convictions of first-time offenders skyrocketed. However, the arrests were biased on a racial level, Herring asserts. To support this claim, Herring cited a number from the Virginia Crime Commission that shows that Black Virginians make up 46% of first-time offender arrests, despite making only 20% of the state’s population.
Although there isn’t much that Herring’s office could do to directly influence the ways the state’s law enforcement handles cannabis, the op-ed suggests that the Attorney General’s staff will be available to “provide inputs and assistance”.