by Grady Brown
There has been some recent action in the Virginia General Assembly concerning state marijuana laws. At the end of January, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee killed Senate Bill 686, which would have decriminalized marijuana possession and lowered the penalty for possession from $500 to $100. However, the Republican controlled Courts and Justice Committee rejected the bill in a party line 9 – 5 vote. The bill was faced with strong opposition from law enforcement organizations.
While the Senate rejected decriminalization, it did pass Senate Bill 1235, which would loosen medical restrictions on cannabis oils. A similar bill in the House of Delegates has also passed through committee. Should the bill be signed into law, epilepsy patients in the Commonwealth would be able to use marijuana oils to help treat seizures. Gov. Terry McAuliffe has already expressed his support for the bill.
The mixed results in Richmond show a divided General Assembly, but a March 2014 poll from Quinnipiac University poll reported 84 percent of Virginia voters supported legalizing medical marijuana, while 13 percent were opposed. However, legalized marijuana for recreational use is still divided, with 46 percent of Virginia voters in favor and 48 percent opposed. The poll’s margin of error was +/- 2.7 percent. National support for legalized marijuana is also increasing, with a recent Gallup Poll showing 51 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed with a 4 percent margin of error.