State Supreme Court may decide if prosecutors can stop pursuing marijuana cases

State Supreme Court may decide if prosecutors can stop pursuing marijuana cases
Every year Virginia lawmakers introduce bills to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Every year, they fail despite public support.

Every year Virginia lawmakers introduce bills to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Every year, they fail despite overwhelming public support.

Now, a handful of locally elected prosecutors are taking up the issue, announcing that they will no longer prosecute most simple possession cases.

Not all local judges, however, are willing to go along with it.

The standoff sets up a legal battle over the extent of prosecutorial discretion that will likely to be decided by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

“What we’re witnessing is a dispute over the appropriate separation of powers,” said Richmond defense attorney Steve Benjamin. “May a prosecutor on his or her own discretion choose not to prosecute conduct the General Assembly has criminalized?”

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.