Marijuana advocates applaud effort to decriminalize drug on federal level

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Sen. Tim Kaine recently joined a legislative effort to decriminalize marijuana on the federal level.

The Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act would remove the classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug.

Scott McLellan, a marijuana legalization advocate in Rockingham County, said the bill is much needed.

"[Marijuana] is something that people have been using for thousands of years, it's something they've been able to grow," he said. "Even from the medical perspective — it does put a lot of power [...] to the patient."

The bill would not legalize marijuana nationwide. Instead, it would leave the decision whether or not to permit marijuana usage to the states.

McLellan said if cannabis is decriminalized on the federal level, more states should consider legalizing it.

"If it is decriminalized at the federal level and then the state still wants to punish people for that, I don't get that. A lot of times, states do reference federal legislation," he said.

In Virginia, the usage of marijuana for recreational or medical purposes is illegal. Possessing the drug is a misdemeanor offense.

Jenn Michelle Pedini, the Executive Director of the marijuana advocacy group Virginia NORML, applauded Kaine's support for the bill.

"Virginia NORML is thrilled that Senator Kaine has joined Congressmen Garrett and Taylor in calling for the end to federal marijuana prohibition. Senator Kaine is clearly listening to his constituents. He’s heard their stories, he’s seen the data, and now he’s taking action," she said in a statement.

West Virginia legalized medical marijuana last year, licensing plant growers, processors and dispensaries for cannabis in pills, oils, topical gels, liquids and a form that can be vaporized.

Earlier this year, the state's medical marijuana board recommended some patients be able to buy smokable forms of the drug.