Tell the VA General Assembly it’s time to repeal marijuana prohibition.


Across the state, data shows that Black people are 3.4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, despite similar usage rates. It's time to bring racial justice to our system now by taking away from law enforcement a tool it has wielded disproportionately against Black Virginians.

Gov. Ralph Northam's proposed legislation to decriminalize marijuana (House Bill 972), as well as Senate Bill 2, set up new civil penalty enforcement mechanisms ripe for abuse and actually create new crimes.

The only way to stop the harm of marijuana laws against people of color is to repeal the prohibition on marijuana possession and use from the code completely, making it legal for adults to possess less than half an ounce of marijuana. This is the first step in the right direction to eliminating racially biased drug enforcement.

Tell the Virginia General Assembly to support HB 1507, introduced by Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, which would accomplish this important goal by simply repealing marijuana prohibition.

Message Recipients:
State Senator
State House Representative

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Your Message
It's time to repeal marijuana prohibition

As my representative in the Virginia General Assembly, I urge you support HB 1507, introduced by Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, that repeals the prohibition on marijuana and stops the harm to communities of color caused by the continued imposition of civil or criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession.

Marijuana laws are disparately enforced against Black people at every level of the criminal legal system, starting with law enforcement interactions. For example, data made public by the City of Charlottesville, shows that Black people in that community are five times more likely to be targeted by stop-and-frisk practices than white people, and alleged marijuana violations are often the pretext for such stops.

This proposed legislation likely will result in even greater racial disparities in enforcement than we have with existing laws. As introduced, both bills do the following:

• Give county and city attorneys and local prosecutors the power to enforce the new "civil penalty" provision.
• Hurt young people because they define the civil violation of marijuana possession as a "crime" for juveniles by defining the civil violation as "delinquency." This puts young people into the flawed juvenile criminal legal system for a civil infraction.
• Revoke the driver's license of a juvenile who commits the civil infraction of possession for six months and requires them to undergo drug screening.

Worse yet, HB 972 adds a whole new crime for "smoking while driving," which requires no impairment or evidence of impairment. The proposed penalties for a violation of this new law far exceed driving with an open container of alcohol.

The Virginia legislature should not delay taking action to end the prohibition on simple marijuana possession and bring some racial justice to our system now. I urge you to withdraw HB 972 and SB 2 or conform them to language in HB 1507, introduced by Del. Foy, which would move us in the direction of legalization and, more importantly, racial equity by simply repealing the marijuana prohibition.


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