Should Virginia change the way it penalizes people for smoking pot?

Posted at 1:40 PM, Jan 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-17 21:41:10-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Dozens of people rallied at the Virginia State Capitol Friday in support of changing marijuana penalties in the Commonwealth.

"For Virginia at this time, I think decriminalization would be a huge step forward," rally participant Dick Kennedy said.

"I believe it's a victim-less crime," supporter Nicholas Cote added. "I believe people use it (marijuana) to ease their pain."

Senate Bill 686 would decriminalize simple marijuana possession--meaning those found with small amounts of the drug would pay a $100 fine and avoid jail time.

"We have serious crimes to worry about and this is not a serious crime at all," bill sponsor Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) said. "I knew that I was doing the right thing, but when you have the support from people all over the state it gives me hope."

After spending 31 years as a CIA analyst, supporter Dick Kennedy has focused his energy lobbying lawmakers for change.

"Injustice really bothers me and I think the good citizens need to try to do something to improve it," Kennedy said.

Not everyone is sold on the idea, some people point to Colorado, where marijuana recently became legal. In that state there has been an increase in calls to poison centers and employers reporting more incidents related to marijuana use.

"I think that there is an opportunity for marijuana to benefit some, and there is an opportunity for some abuse there," Richmond resident Stanley Craddock said. "You have to look at both of them equally."

Lawmakers will also consider a bill that would legalize pot for medical purposes.

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