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Virginia Governor Proposes Marijuana Decriminalization

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By Alan Suderman, Associated Press

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is promising sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice reforms that include decriminalizing marijuana.

The governor wants to replace criminal charges for people caught possessing marijuana with a $50 fine.

Northam said Virginia isn’t ready to legalize marijuana like some other states have done. But he said decriminalization is needed because too many young people, especially people of color, are stuck with a criminal record due to simple marijuana possession charge.

About 29,000 Virginians were charged with marijuana-related charges in 2018.

Northam also wants to soften the penalties for people caught stealing smaller-dollar items, and reducing the number of Virginians whose driver’s licenses are suspended.

“Civilized societies must have laws and punishments for those who break them,” Northam said. “But justice must be fair and equitable, and the punishment should fit the crime.”

Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said Northam is proposing “the boldest and most transformative” criminal justice reform in at least several decades, if not the state’s history.

AP Photo/Steve Helber

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