Local prosecutor discusses Virginia marijuana decriminalization

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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) -- This week, Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill impacting marijuana laws in Virginia.

Augusta County Commonwealth's Attorney Tim Martin discussed marijuana decriminalization in Virginia with WHSV on Friday.

Augusta County Commonwealth's Attorney Tim Martin tells WHSV that it's a change in law but not a change that will have a huge impact on how people facing marijuana related charges will be prosecuted.

Current marijuana laws include fines of up to $500 dollars with possible jail time. The new law for simple marijuana possession will incur a maximum civil fine of $25 and will not include jail time.

Martin says that most marijuana related cases he sees do not result in the maximum punishment and rarely include jail time.

"What this is is a shift in what the maximum punishment is," Martin said. "People weren't really getting the maximum punishment and that's not where we allocated our resources, to hunting down people who are found with the possession of small personal use amounts of marijuana. We weren't really expending our resources in that way in the first place."

Last year, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring called for marijuana reform. Martin said it was not his place to do that as a law enforcer and not a lawmaker. Martin maintains that now.

Martin also said that he has not dealt with a lot of crimes relating to violence, theft or other similar incidents that trace back to the use of marijuana.

Discussing the risks of more driving impairment incidents impacted by marijuana, Martin cited that there was an increase in Colorado after recreational marijuana was legalized there. He hopes that there is not a negative impact like that locally and that Virginia is approaching "uncharted territory," for how it will impact the state.