Will the Virginia General Assembly take a second look at pot penalties?

marijuana plants

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Will this be the year Virginia changes its penalties for pot? A Hampton Roads lawmaker will make that push in this year’s General Assembly.

Senator Tommy Norment said it’s not legalization, but he thinks it will help with first time offenders.

On the first day of the General Assembly, we met up with Senate majority leader from Hampton Roads.

“I’m looking forward to a collegiate and collaborative atmosphere,” Norment said.

One of the first pieces of legislation he wanted to talk about deals with pot possession. Norment’s bill, which is in a Senate committee, aims to lessen penalties.

“I am going to advance that as aggressively as I can,” he promised.

We sat down with ODU professor of politics, Dr. Benjamin Melusky. He said the bill does something many judges across the state already do for first time offenders.

“So you still have to pay the fine, the judge can still order you into some form of probationary period, at which point if you complete it, it is expunged from your record,” Melusky said.

Norment’s law would standardize the lowered penalties and clear record. Melusky said it would be a big help to the Virginia court system.

“You know it’s going to save us tens of thousands of dollars, easily,” Melusky said. “I think it’s about $10,000 per individual it’s costing the state according to a study.”

But, not everyone has a positive reaction. Marijuana law reform groups said the bill doesn’t do enough.

However, Melusky said the bill, in this form, may get a better shot at passing.

“It’s a signal that the state is changing, but Virginia doesn’t change quickly,” he said.

A fact, of which, the author of the bill is very aware.

“It’s gonna be a subject of some controversy,” Sen. Norment said

There was a bill in the House of Delegates that went further to decriminalize marijuana. That bill authored by Portsmouth delegate Steve Heretick, already died in committee.

Senator Norment’s bill goes to committee this week.