Virginia Panel Puts Off Bills to Decriminalize Marijuana, Pending Study

Virginia Panel Puts Off Bills to Decriminalize Marijuana, Pending Study

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Two bills to decriminalize marijuana by punishing possession of small amounts with a civil fine instead of a criminal misdemeanor were not approved by a Senate committee on Monday.

But it’s not because the senators were necessarily opposed. Consideration of such legislation in Virginia is an issue on which the state hasn’t done much study and the Virginia State Crime Commission will be studying decriminalization of marijuana.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. of James City made the request for a study in December after saying he was open to decriminalization.

Senators on the Courts of Justice Committee held a hearing Monday on two decriminalization bills: Senate Bill 1269 from Sen. Adam P. Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Senate Bill 908 from Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth.

Ebbin cited Virginia Beach religious broadcaster Pat Robertson – “one of my favorite philosophers” – among those who has called for decriminalization of marijuana. Ebbin said the state shouldn’t give someone a criminal record for something that’s not harmful.

Virginia State Police and the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys opposed his bill.

Regardless of how anyone on the committee felt, the bill won’t be moving forward without the Crime Commission study, said Committee Chairman Mark D. Obenshain of Rockingham.

Both bills were “passed by indefinitely” while the study is being done.

Patrick Wilson