RICHMOND, Va. – Marijuana law reform advocates are refocusing their agenda after Virginia’s Senate majority leader introduced a bill that eliminates jail time for first-offense possession but falls short of decriminalization—a concept he earlier said he would support.
Under the bill by Sen. Thomas Norment Jr., R-James City, first-time marijuana possession offenders would be fined but also have a chance to have their records expunged. It isn’t the decriminalization bill Norment told The Virginian-Pilot he supported last November. But a spokesperson for the majority leader now says such a bill, which could have made first-time possession a civil offense, would have little chance of passing the House of Delegates.
“It’s a disappointment to thousands of Virginians and particularly to his constituents, who were looking for him to be the leader on this issue,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML, a marijuana reform advocacy group.
Reform advocates, who gathered at the Virginia 2018 Cannabis Conference in Richmond on Sunday and Monday, said they support the bill despite it not going far enough, but are now focusing their attention on legislation including a measure by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, that would expand the use of medical cannabis in Virginia.
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