Panelists Discuss Pros and Cons of Decriminalizing Marijuana
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - As advocates across the commonwealth push for the legalization of marijuana, officials are taking a look at what that could look like.
On Wednesday, April 24, Virginia NORML hosted a town hall in Charlottesville where they discussed just that.
Panelists including Police Chief RaShall Brackney and Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania discussed the potential benefits of decriminalizing marijuana while also calling out some possible negative side effects.
“It’s not an area of enforcement for our office, I don't believe it’s an area of enforcement for the Charlottesville Police Department,” Platania said.
With only a handful of misdemeanor citations for marijuana possession so far this year in Charlottesville, officials are addressing how the futures of marijuana legalization and law enforcement could play out.
“We are on course for there to be under 20 citations for simple possession of marijuana in the city of Charlottesville for 2019,” Platania said.
Wednesday night, marijuana advocacy group NORML hosted Brackney, Platania, and city councilors Wes Bellamy and Kathy Galvin for a town hall event.
“I think that fostering this space for the community to have this conversation specifically on this very popular topic with their elected officials is important,” Jenn Michelle Pedini of Virginia NORML, said.
The group discussed what the potential legalization of marijuana in Virginia could look like.
Panelists agreed that licensing fees and the need for upfront capital disproportionately favors wealthier people hoping to start dispensaries.
“If I’m wealthy and I’m able to be an entrepreneur and I can get cash resources together, I will qualify for my license to be able to sell,” Brackney said.
While advocates believe legalization will lead to safer distribution, officials worry there could be potential negative side effects, too.
“There are legitimate community safety issues that should be anticipated,” Platania said.
One of those concerns is the potential for children to access it.
“I think we need to be very careful that when we leave the space of the storefront that there is regulation that goes beyond that, how much you store at home, child safety caps, any of those other things that you might be required to do with something that could be very dangerous for a child,” Brackney said.
The group examined the future of medical marijuana as well.
Chief Brackney also touched on how her department is focusing on stopping opioid abuse rather than enforcing marijuana violations.