Pro-Pot Advocates Rally at State Capitol

Dozens of pro-pot advocates rallied at the state capitol Friday in support of bill that would decriminalize marijuana use.

Eighteen other states, including our neighbors in D.C., have already passed similar legislation.

Senate bill 686, filed by Adam Ebbin, a democrat in Alexandria, would remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana here in the Commonwealth.

Ed McCann with Virginia NORML, a group advocating to make it legal to light up here in Virginia, argues otherwise law abiding citizens are ending up in handcuffs.

“It’s ineffective; it’s giving people criminal records who don’t deserve it,” McCann told 8News reporter Kerri O’Brien. “The bill would basically make it a fine, like a parking ticket, if you are caught in possession of cannabis.”

An 8News investigation this past May revealed pot possession arrests clog the courts here in Central Virginia with more than 4,000 cases in 2013 alone. And the cost of policing pot? About 67 million dollars statewide.

But opponents argue marijuana is a dangerous drug.

“Marijuana is a gateway drug,” Regina Whitsett with Chesterfield’s Substance Abuse Free Environment (SAFE) program said. “It is psychologically addictive and it affects your short-term memory.”

Meanwhile pot advocates plan to be back at the capitol next week to support a medical marijuana bill that would make it legal for doctors and pharmacies to fill pot prescriptions for patients.

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