Both chambers of the Virginia Legislature flipped in Tuesday’s General Election. Democrats now hold the majority in the state Senate and House of Delegates going into the 2020 legislative session. Marijuana reform efforts have stalled in previous legislatures, but with new leadership, there is new opportunity.
Now is a great time to let your lawmakers know you want them to make marijuana policy reform a priority in 2020.
There has been increasing momentum from elected officials — including Attorney General Mark Herring, Governor Ralph Northam, and Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) — to decriminalize marijuana possession.
Polling has also shown that 76 percent of Virginians support decriminalizing marijuana possession and 61 percent support ending marijuana prohibition altogether.
It is past time for Virginia to reform its marijuana laws to stop criminalizing marijuana consumers. In 2018, police agencies reported nearly 29,000 marijuana arrests. Under current law, a simple marijuana possession charge is punishable by a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
Please urge your lawmakers to decriminalize or legalize cannabis in 2020. Then, forward this message to your family and friends in Virginia.
P.S.: If you have suffered from a marijuana possession arrest and are interested in getting more involved in marijuana policy reform efforts in Virginia, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring submitted an op-ed to the Daily Press urging the state to "decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, address past convictions and start moving toward legal and regulated adult-use." Shortly after, lawmakers from both parties, including Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R), also voiced support for decriminalization.
The 2019 legislative session adjourned on February 23. While both legalization and decriminalization bills were introduced this past session, those bills were defeated in committee. With increasing support from elected officials, the focus now shifts to 2020.
Virginia is lagging behind the rest of the country on marijuana policy. Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C. have stopped jailing their residents for possession of modest amounts of marijuana, and 11 of those states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for individuals over 21.
Polling has also shown that almost eight of 10 Virginia residents support replacing criminal convictions for simple marijuana possession with a fine, and 62 percent favor ending marijuana prohibition altogether.
It is past time Virginia reform its marijuana laws. Please contact your lawmakers today, and forward this message to your family and friends in Virginia.