Cannabis arrests have fallen more than 90% in the Richmond, Virginia area since the state’s cannabis law took effect on July 1, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Since the law took effect, there were just 25 arrests in Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Hanover, and Henrico; over the same seven-week period last year, there were 257 cannabis-related arrests.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, development director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the executive director of the state chapter, told the Times-Dispatch that the reduction in arrests “indicates that the public policy is performing as intended and in a manner that is consistent with post-legalization observations from other states.”
The majority of the arrests—10—were simple possession charges by individuals under 21-years-old for whom it is still illegal to possess any amount of cannabis under the Legislature-approved law. The charges for underage possession are a civil violation.
Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz told the Times-Dispatch that his department has “not shied away from enforcing any laws that are on the books.”
“We believe that arrests or prosecutions is advantageous for public safety. So that’s kind of the philosophy that we operate under. I mean we’re not out actively looking for [cannabis] arrests. But if we see violations of the law, and we feel it appropriate, we make the charge.”—Katz to the Times-Dispatch
Katz described lawmakers’ process in legalizing cannabis in the state as “poor public policy.”
“There’s no public marketplace for anyone to go purchase what they made legal, and that means that in order for someone to possess marijuana, they either have to grow it themselves or purchase it from a street-level drug dealer,” he said in the report, “and that’s what we’re seeing.”
Hanover Sheriff David Hines said in a statement that “if a violation is observed, the appropriate charges are placed”; however, Hanover had not recorded a single cannabis arrest from July 1 to August 20.
Cannabis sales are expected to commence in Virginia in 2024.
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