‘Punishment should fit the crime’: Governor Northam proposing criminal justice form ahead of session

Northam proposes sweeping criminal justice reforms

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On Friday Governor Ralph Northam announced he would like to decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana. This is just one of his proposals for the legislative session.

“Justice must be fair and equitable and the punishment should fit the crime," the Governor said.

He says that starts with marijuana.

“We are proposing that we decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana.”

Governor Northam says about 29,000 Virginians were arrested in 2018 for marijuana-related charges. But decriminalization is not the same as legalization. Those caught with the drug would still face a penalty.

“Instead of getting a criminal record, people will pay a $50 civil fee and we’ll clear the records of people with previous convictions," said Northam.

When asked about the possibility of full legalization, Northam said, “We’re not there yet, other states are as you know, but this is a step in that direction.”

He says the budget includes funding a study of other states where marijuana is legal.

Next, the Governor says he wants to raise the felony larceny threshold to $1,000. That would mean if someone stole something valued under a thousand dollars, they wouldn’t be charged with a felony.

“A felony conviction brings prison time and a lifetime mark on a person’s record," said Northam.

And finally, last year we told you that drivers with unpaid fines and fees whose licenses had been suspended could drive again.

The Governor wants to make sure that is permanent.

“When people can’t legally drive, they risk losing their jobs and it can mean missing out on children’s school activities, family visits, and much more.”

With a session starting next Wednesday, there is a lot more in store.

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