Virginia’s Leading Gubernatorial Candidate Is Already Calling for Marijuana Decriminalization
Ralph Northam is the current Lieutenant Governor looking for a promotion, and he’s trying to bring cannabis reform with him.
Published on August 8, 2017

The man who many believe is next in line to take over as Virginia’s Governor wrote a letter this week encouraging the State Crime Commission to decriminalize marijuana and end the continued horrors of prohibition. 

Virginia’s State Crime Commission is currently conducting a study to look at the possibility of decriminalizing simple marijuana possession, and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, who has voiced his support for decriminalization in the past, took the opportunity to restate his opinions about the current state of prohibition, especially as it concerns the state’s racial minorities.

“While we have made some progress reforming our criminal justice system, Virginia's marijuana enforcement and sentencing laws remain costly and disproportionately harmful to communities of color.” Northam wrote. “Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement - enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children. African Americans are nearly 3 times as likely to get arrested for simple possession of marijuana and sentencing guidelines that include jail time can all too often begin a dangerous cycle of recidivism.”

Northam’s previous calls for decriminalization didn’t get much press, but with Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial election only three months away and the Lt. Governor ahead in the polls, his words are beginning to carry more weight.

“I have called for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, and I urge this Commission to consider the positive impact reforming our marijuana enforcement would have on the Commonwealth.” Northam added.

Virginia doesn’t currently recognize any medical value for THC, and possession of any more than a half-ounce of weed can land you a felony charge, and up to 10 years of jail time. This makes the Old Dominion one of the harshest states to be caught toking in.

The move to study decriminalization is a good start, but electing Northam could be the step Virginians need to finally step out of prohibition and start down the road of full legalization.

Zach Harris
Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.
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