Richmond, VA: A University of Mary Washington survey shows 61 percent of Virginians favor legalizing the adult use of marijuana. Virginia attitudes, like American attitudes, are increasingly supportive of ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and replacing it with a legal marketplace in which products can be safely regulated for responsible consumers.
“It comes as no surprise that a majority of Virginians support legalizing marijuana. Virginians know prohibition has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, derailed the lives of hundreds of thousands of hard-working Virginians, and has done nothing to protect our youth or provide for consumer safety. They’re ready for marijuana policy that works for, not against them," said Virginia NORML executive director Jenn Michelle Pedini. “Voter attitudes are no longer reflected in state law, and candidates on the campaign trail would be wise to take note."
Marijuana-related arrests in Virginia have risen steadily in recent years, increasing 25 percent since 2016. The overwhelming majority of arrests are for possession-related offenses, and over half of those arrested are under 24 years of age.
Under state law, first-time possession offenders face up to 30 days in jail and a criminal record. Subsequent offenses are punishable by up to one-year in prison.
"While other states are moving to a more sensible approach to cannabis, Virginia is still moving in the wrong direction. It makes absolutely no sense," said Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. "Marijuana arrests are now at their highest level in at least two decades and maybe ever, meaning that even more Virginians, especially young people and people of color, are being saddled with criminal records that can drastically affect their lives. Now is the time to put a stop to this costly, unfair, and ineffective approach, and to pursue a better, smarter, fairer course."
"Absent legalization, consumers of cannabis products won't know whether they’re getting a safe, tested product or one contaminated with potentially lethal adulterants,” says Pedini. Recently, fatalities and injuries have resulted from unregulated vape cartridges, and similar issues also plague the CBD market, where the lack of a regulatory framework has led to products of variable quality, purity, and safety. "Legalization that allows for regulatory oversight is the best way to address these issues, not continued prohibition, which only drives cannabis products further into the shadows of the illicit market,” Pedini adds.
For more information, contact Jenn Michelle Pedini, Virginia NORML Executive Director