State officials discuss decriminalization of marijuana

State officials discuss decriminalization of marijuana

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Citizens and organizations made their voices heard about the possibility of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in Virginia.

The state crime commission listened to their testimony in Richmond on Monday. This is not about legalizing marijuana, just removing possession of a small amount - like an ounce or less of marijuana - from being a crime.

The state crime commission first announced the results of a study of the impact of decriminalizing possession. Proponents say it would protect people from having criminal records and having trouble getting jobs, student financial aid, or having to go through rehab and drug testing. They say it would save states and localities tens of millions of dollars in costs for arresting and jailing first-time offenders.

"We took a snap shot on July 20 of 2017 to see how many people were in custody solely on a marijuana charge. What we found was there were 96 inmates on that date being held pre-trial in the jails, and 31 serving a sentence," said Colin Drabert with the state crime commission.

The study found the majority of people charged with possession were usually charged with other crimes as well. Opponents argue decriminalizing it could lead to driving under the influence or marijuana being a gateway to other drugs.

The commission will consider the testimony and decide whether Virginia should go forward with decriminalization.

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