Matheus Gonçalves

The Virginia Legislature is considering bills aimed at both medical and criminal justice cannabis reforms, NBC12 reports. The measure being considered by the Joint Commission on Health Care would open up the state’s limited medical cannabis program beyond the one condition – intractable epilepsy – permitted for medical cannabis access; while lawmakers have two bills to consider that would decriminalize simple possession and another that would reduce penalties for first-time cannabis offenses.

The medical cannabis reforms would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis for patients with cancer, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and several other conditions.

Under current Virginia law, courts are allowed to suspend driver’s licenses as part of the penalty for cannabis possession, and all three criminal reform laws would end that practice. The bill to reduce penalties for first-time offenders would also allow offenders to have low-level cannabis charges expunged from their records.

Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the organization supports reducing possession penalties but was skeptical about broad decriminalization.

“The problem with looking at decriminalization of marijuana is all the other steps that are involved, like the desire to expunge records, which creates a whole different arena of concerns for our courts, for our record keeping systems, for employers who would like to know that, particularly if you’re an employer who considers sobriety or any kind of drug use to be consequential to the job.” – Schrad, to NBC12

Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam, inaugurated earlier this month, supports cannabis law reforms in the state. In an August letter to the state Crime Commission, Northman said the state’s cannabis sentencing laws are “costly and disproportionately harmful to communities of color.”

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