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Virginia lawmakers still at odds over resentencing for people in prison on marijuana charges

Workers at gLeaf Medical tend to plants in a grow room at the Richmond medical marijuana...
Workers at gLeaf Medical tend to plants in a grow room at the Richmond medical marijuana dispensary.(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 7:58 AM EST
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Nearly a year after Virginia lawmakers voted to legalize possession of marijuana, they remain divided on what — if anything — to do about people currently imprisoned on marijuana charges.

The committee of House and Senate lawmakers tasked with making recommendations for the legislative session that begins Wednesday concluded its work this week with a proposal to begin recreational sales in 2023 — a year earlier than initially planned.

But like last year — when resentencing provisions were left out of the original bill — lawmakers said they ran out of time to reach an agreement on how to handle the issue, leaving the debate for the legislative session.

The Virginia Department of Corrections says 10 people are currently serving sentences in which the most serious offense was marijuana. In all of the cases, the people were convicted of transporting five or more pounds of marijuana into the state.

All 10 are expected to be released in the next six years, according to the department, which presented the data Monday to the assembly’s Cannabis Oversight Commission.

Another 560 people are serving sentences partially related to a marijuana offense but have also been found guilty of more serious offenses.

Democrats on the committee said they supported allowing the 560 people in the latter category to petition for a resentencing hearing to allow a judge to decide whether they were given a longer sentence than they might have otherwise faced as a result of the marijuana charge.

But they disagreed on how to handle the 10 people serving time solely for marijuana convictions.

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

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