Commonwealth's Attorney responds to call for marijuana decriminalization

STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — Attorney General Mark Herring is calling for marijuana reform after data shows arrests for possession for it are at their highest in 20 years.

Across Virginia, reports indicate there were more than 28,000 marijuana arrests made last year.

The Augusta County Commonwealth's Attorney, Tim Martin, said he has seen a fair amount of people coming through the courts on summons for marijuana possession.

Herring is hoping Virginia will move in a direction to reduce that number by decriminalizing possession of small amounts.

Martin, however, does not think it is Herring's place to make a call for what should or should not be legal as part of the executive branch and he believes the attorney general's press release is a political ploy.

"Whether you're in the judicial branch, the legislative branch or the executive branch, that you should not step outside your lane," Martin said. "We have a system that works very well, an ingenious system, and it works because people play by the rules."

While Herring's call to decriminalize possession of marijuana in small amounts could lessen the burden on Augusta County courts, Martin said it would not necessarily have an impact on the number of people being charged.

Herring highlights the unnecessary negative impact a criminal conviction for possession can have on someone's life.

However, Martin said most people in Augusta County are not getting charged and going to jail for simple possession.

Martin said the county's program for first-time offenders allows people to be held accountable without marking up their record.

"They can get out there and pick up roadside trash and avoid a charge altogether. It's not as if the courts are getting clogged necessarily by this," Martin said.