RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) – UPDATE (Jan. 30):
Photo elements: MGN ; compilation: WHSV
A Virginia state Senate committee has voted to kill a bill that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports nine Republicans on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted Monday against the bill while six Democrats voted for it. The bill from Democratic Sen. Adam Ebbin changed the punishment for marijuana possession from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil penalty.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment flipped positions after pushing legislation allowing someone charged with a first offense for marijuana possession to have it expunged. Norment says his mind changed because a decriminalization bill would not survive House committee.
Norment's bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee after the Senate courts committee unanimously passed it.
A bill to expand the potential uses for cannabidiol oil, however, has passed committees in both the House and Senate.
UPDATE (Jan. 26):
A key panel in the Virginia state House has rejected a proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The bill, HB 1063, was referred to a subcommittee, which included local Delegates Todd Gilbert, Robert Bell, and Ben Cline, among others.
That panel voted 7-1 against the measure on Wednesday, likely dooming any chance of Virginia joining the growing list of states to decriminalize or legalize the drug.
The only delegates to vote for it was Charniele L. Herring, representing Alexandria.
The bill would have created the presumption that anyone possessing less than half an ounce of marijuana has it for personal use and would have replaced a $500 maximum fine and 30 days maximum jail time with a maximum $250 civil fine for a first offense. Second and subsequent offenses would be $1,000.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment is pushing legislation that would lessen penalties for a first marijuana-related offense.
Another bill to expand the potential uses for cannabidiol oil, a marijuana derivative, to include anything prescribed by a doctor rather than just epilepsy, did pass with a unanimous vote.
Advocates for marijuana policy reform will come to Richmond for a conference on Sunday and Monday to push for legislation that would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana by adults as well as expand medical access to the drug.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, president of NORML’s Virginia chapter, stated in an email that the organization works to reform all marijuana laws so that responsible use by adults is no longer subject to penalty.
Pedini will open the conference Sunday morning at the Marriott Richmond Downtown, 555 E. Canal St. The program, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., will feature a series of speakers.
The keynote speaker will be John Hudak, author of “Marijuana: A Short History.” Hudak is deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution.
Closing remarks will be made by Del. Ben Cline, a Republican from Rockbridge County, and by NORML’s national outreach director, Kevin Mahmalji.
The speakers will prepare the attendees for a day of lobbying at the state Capitol on Monday. The marijuana legalization advocates will hold meetings with legislators in the morning and then attend the sessions of the Senate and House.