Kyra Robinson | Staff Writer
On Monday, Virginia took a step towards pro-marijuana reform by passing a bill that now allows those charged with marijuana possession to expunge their first charge by paying a $150 fee.
The bill was proposed by Republican Senator Tommy Norment and had a 38-2 vote. Norment considered the bill’s win to be progress for marijuana reform. Norment’s Democratic colleague, Senator Adam Ebbin opposed the bill for its inability to stop the racial disparity of marijuana arrests, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Originally, Norment had planned to push for a decriminalization bill, but ultimately decided against it because he did not believe it would pass in the Virginia House of Representatives.
Sophomore Victoria Ford is a Political Science major who intends to be an international human rights lawyer, and she believes the bill is a step in the right direction.
“Marijuana is becoming more normalized every day, and I think the United States needs to start shifting with society,” Ford said.
The expungement fee is a significant aspect of the bill. According to Senator Norment, the revenue from this fee will go to preventative opioid abuse education.
While he considers the bill to be progress towards marijuana reform, junior Political Science Maurice Foster Jr. believes the fee was not necessary.
“It just seems like the state of Virginia just wants more money. However, I am happy that the fee is not extremely outrageous,” Foster said.
Foster actually had his own legal troubles after being found with marijuana in his possession.
“By the grace of God, I had a great lawyer that protected my freedom,” Foster said on the matter, “But that isn’t the case for many who are arrested.”
He believes that marijuana should be legalized due to how many people use the substance.
“I feel like too many people are labeled as drug addicts for using a substance that has been proven to be safer than many other substances that are currently legal,” Foster said.
Currently, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. Former President Obama implemented a policy to keep federal prosecutors from bringing charges in states where the substance is legal, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions, under the Trump administration, rescinded the policy.
“I think it’s just a way to continue to racially profile minorities,” Ford said, “At least if Virginia is trying to reform marijuana law, other states can follow suit.”