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January 3, 2020

Northam backs $50 civil fines for “pot” possession

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The governor also proposed automatically sealing past convictions for simple possession, meaning they would not show up on most criminal background checks, according to his administration.
Decriminalization of simple possession will lead to fewer people in our court system and in our jails. It will mean fewer people with criminal records.
— Gov. Ralph Northam
What Do You Think?
> Poll: Should Virginia decriminalize simple possession of marijuana? Click here to vote.
By Ned Oliver
Virginia Mercury

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is throwing his weight behind legislation to reduce the penalty for simple marijuana possession in Virginia from a jailable criminal offense to a $50 civil fine — part of a criminal justice reform platform his administration called the boldest in the state’s history.

“Studies show that these arrests disproportionately impact people of color,” Mr. Northam said. “Decriminalization of simple possession will lead to fewer people in our court system and in our jails. It will mean fewer people with criminal records.”

The governor also proposed automatically sealing past convictions for simple possession, meaning they would not show up on most criminal background checks, according to his administration.

Mr. Northam said he doesn’t support proposals from within his party to skip decriminalization to and move straight to legalization this year. He was noncommittal when asked whether he supported legalization in future years.

Advocacy groups such as the ACLU of Virginia have argued decriminalization doesn’t go far enough, noting that minority communities that are already facing disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws will continue to bear the brunt of reduced civil penalties.

Mr. Northam acknowledged that criticism while speaking to reporters at a press event Friday, but called decriminalization a step in the right direction.

The governor also said he’ll support legislation that would:

• Raise the threshold for felony larceny from $500 to $1,000.

• Make permanent a move last year that ended driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court fees and fines.

• Eliminate driver’s license suspensions as a penalty for some non-driving related offenses, including drug crimes.

• Raise the age for when a juvenile can be tried as an adult from 14 to 16.

• Reform parole to loosen the state’s strictest-in-the nation compassionate release policies.
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paultolliver23 · January 6, 2020 at 2:45 am

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David Dod · January 4, 2020 at 8:28 am
Good moves, Governor. We should ease up on punishments that make it hard for minor violators to find employment!
AngryBob · January 3, 2020 at 1:39 pm
Well, if they're going to take away our guns, might as well legalize pot so we can all get stoned instead.
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