NORFOLK — The Commonwealth’s Attorney here declared in a letter to city officials that his office would no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.
The office already does not prosecute misdemeanor pot charges, but some cases still come to Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood’s office on appeals or when attached to other misdemeanor or felony charges. In the letter, Underwood writes that his office “will cease prosecuting all misdemeanor marijuana possessions cases and will be to nolle prosequi or dismiss such cases.”
Underwood wrote in his letter “consistent budget reductions for 5+ years” to his office must be met with a balanced “change to the allocation of proprietorial resources.”
“I believe in legalizing marijuana,” Underwood said.
He said he believes the city can play a big role in changing the law.
“I think what the city can do is talk to their delegation, their general assembly delegation, and try to get legislation passed that will either decriminalize marijuana or legalize marijuana,” Underwood said.
Mayor Kenny Alexander and the members of City Council supported the decriminalization of marijuana as part of its legislative agenda General Assembly in 2017.
Alexander and Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone were not immediately available for comment.
Underwood’s declaration comes amidst statewide enthusiasm for marijuana reform. Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation in March that allows for doctors to recommend medical cannabis oil to patients.
The state’s board of pharmacy received 51 applications in June 2018 from private companies looking to produce cannabis oil in Virginia. Virginia Beach City Council hosted Del. Glenn Davis to discuss the nuances of the legislation and what the marijuana industry could bring to a local economy.
Virginia NORML has also been active in its pursuit of marijuana law reform in the state, and had discussion panels and fundraising events throughout Hampton Roads in 2018.
A new legislative sessions for the General Assembly begins Wednesday, and Democratic state Sen. Adam Ebbin has submitted a bill to decriminalize simple marijuana possession.
“Will Virginia eventually decriminalize personal possession of marijuana? Yes. Will it be in 2019? That’s very unlikely,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of the Virginia NORML