Source: By Eric Carriere, November 30, 2014. Latest.com
State Senator Adam P. Ebbin, D-Alexandria, introduced a bill on Friday that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, totaling an ounce or less.
The issue of legalization is one that the entire country is facing after Colorado and Washington state have successfully legalized marijuana. Many states and cities have proposed their own versions of legalization, through New York’s baby-step legalization to Georgia’s full-blown decriminalization proposal. In Virginia, marijuana legislation has met fierce opposition in the past.
Ebbin has admitted that he is not looking to fully legalize marijuana, but rather, decriminalize small possession in order to prevent people from receiving damning criminal records for small-time possession. The current system carries a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
“It would decriminalize simple possession of an ounce or less, but not decriminalize it to the extent done recently in Colorado and Washington State,” he said.
“I had requests to do it for a number of years, and I decided this year to go ahead,” he added. “There’s about 25 million Americans who smoked marijuana in the past year, and our public policy should start to reflect reality and not deny it.”
Edward McCann, policy directory for Virginia NORML, a group that advocates for the legalization of marijuana, believes that this bill has a fifty-fifty chance to pass, a pretty high estimation considering the states past history with decriminalization.
“This is not just a conversation starter; we need to pass this bill,” McCann said. “We’ve been talking to many of the members. … I think there is general support for the core of the bill, which is removing criminal penalties for people who possess small amounts — even from Republicans.”
The bill will also ease the punishment for distribution of small amounts. Individuals caught with six plants will be protected under the assumption that the plants were for personal use.
“The criminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana ruins far more lives than it impacts in any kind of positive ways,” Ebbin said.
As much as I don’t want to beat the dead horse, we continue to find ourselves at the same discussion point. Why is possessing or distributing marijuana still considered a criminal offense, especially for small amounts? There is no benefit attached to the incarceration of individuals for small-time marijuana related crimes. However, there is a massive benefit attached to legalization through the revenue streams that it creates. Look to Colorado as a successful test subject, there isn’t an increase in crime or chaos, no; there is an increase in brownie sales and happiness.
Photo credit: WTVR.