Decriminalization: A more sensible approach to marijuana possession in Virginia
Current penalties for marijuana possession are harsh and unjust.
Nearly 29,000 arrests were made for marijuana offenses in Virginia in 2018, a number that has tripled since 1999. Almost half of those arrests were young people aged 18-24.
In Virginia, African Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white counterparts, despite similar rates of use.
A criminal conviction for possessing a small amount of marijuana can lead to a lifetime of harsh collateral consequences, which derails lives and destroys earning potential. Convictions can result in denial of student financial aid, housing, employment, and professional licenses.
Decriminalization saves tax-funded resources for serious crime.
Criminalizing simple marijuana possession forces law enforcement to spend valuable time arresting, processing, and prosecuting non-violent offenders.
This time could be better-spent preventing crimes with community policing and solving violent and property crimes.
Virginians want reduced penalties.
Polling shows 83 percent of Virginians support decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, making it punishable by a fine rather than jail.
Other states have successfully reduced penalties.
Twenty-six states — including Maryland and North Carolina — have stopped jailing their residents for possessing small amounts of marijuana. In 11 of those states and D.C., marijuana has been legalized for adults’ use.
Many of the decriminalization laws have been in place since the 1970s. They have been so non-controversial that even many people living in the states are unaware of them.
Marijuana is safer than alcohol; possession should not be criminalized.
Marijuana is less toxic, less addictive, and less harmful to the body than alcohol.
Individuals should not be criminalized for choosing to use the safer substance.