Local sheriff says bill to decriminalize marijuana is "a horrible idea"

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Published: Feb. 6, 2020 at 8:21 PM EST
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A bill that would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana is making its way through the Virginia General Assembly.

, backed by Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), would impose a $50 fee for consuming or possessing marijuana. Ebbin’s bill would raise the threshold amount of marijuana subject to distribution or possession with intent to distribute from one-half ounce to one ounce.

Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said the bill is "a horrible idea" and a public safety concern.

"There's impairment when you drive a motor vehicle after you smoke marijuana," Hutcheson said. "Currently, in law enforcement, we don't have any way at the roadside level to measure that."

SB 2 also imposes a maximum 30-day jail sentence for a first offense, and subsequent offenses are a Class 1 misdemeanor. Advocates said the 30-day cap would ease overcrowding in jails, but Sheriff Hutcheson said that's a misconception.

"It's really a myth. You hear people say that a lot of people are incarcerated for simple possession of marijuana and that's not true," he said. "A misdemeanor marijuana possession, you don't get locked up for it. Here at our facility today, we have zero people that are incarcerated for that. It's a misconception that costs of incarceration are increasing due to that."

The bill also allows a person to petition for expungement of convictions and deferred disposition dismissals for marijuana possession when all court costs and fines and orders of restitution have been paid.

With democrats in control of both chambers and democratic Governor Ralph Northam behind the effort, it's likely the bill will pass.