In the 10-year period ending last year, there were 133,256 arrests in Virginia for possession of marijuana, 84 percent of them first-time offenses.
Nevertheless, relatively few people go to jail in the state solely for possession of marijuana, according to a study prompted by a proposal that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of the drug for personal use.
The report by the staff of the Virginia State Crime Commission found that on July 20, there were 96 jail inmates awaiting trial for possession of marijuana and 31 serving jail time after conviction. State figures show there were more than 29,000 people in Virginia’s jails that same day.
State crime commission members were briefed on the findings of the months long study prior to taking mixed comment from 32 people at a hearing Monday. Under the proposal, possession of small amounts of marijuana would remain illegal but would become a civil offense, instead of a criminal one.
“We are here to talk about decriminalization, not legalization,” said state Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, to those in attendance. Norment, a member of the crime commission, helped prompt the study out of concerns about the collateral consequences of such convictions.
Colin L. Drabert, senior staff attorney for the commission, outlined some of those ramifications, which can include effects on employment, federal higher education aid, housing, immigration status, the ability to purchase or transport a firearm, and child custody. [Read more at Richmond Times-Dispatch]