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New marijuana crime included in Virginia budget proposal

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia legislative leaders are proposing a new criminal misdemeanor in state law for possession of more than four ounces of marijuana in public.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the proposal is included in a new two-year state budget plan, which became publicly available online Sunday evening. The General Assembly will meet Wednesday in special session to consider the budget. The language on marijuana — like much of the budget agreement — followed discussions that were not held in public.

The budget compromise backed by House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight, a Republican, and Senate Finance and Appropriations Chair Janet Howell, a Democrat, would write into law that anyone caught in public with more than four ounces of marijuana would be guilty of a Class 3 criminal misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $500, plus a criminal record.

A second or subsequent offense would be a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of the group Marijuana Justice Virginia, along with heads of other organizations, blasted the proposal in an email sent to Howell on Sunday evening.

“Please stop finding more ways to criminalize Virginians,” she wrote, adding, “let’s work on righting the wrongs from the failed and destructive prohibition.” [Read More @ APNews]

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