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Virginia State Senator pushes marijuana decriminalization bill

A marijuana plant. (File photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) -- Marijuana is no longer a taboo subject.

"I would rather see people out and stoned than out and drunk," said Ryan D'Arville, a supporter of marijuana decriminalization.

As more states and governments pass laws to decriminalize or legalize pot, the Commonwealth of Virginia is now the next state getting ready to tackle weed.

A Virginia State Senator will bring his marijuana decriminalization bill to Richmond this January.

"This is not going to legalize marijuana. It is going to make it no longer have a criminal penalty," said Senator Adam Ebbin, (D) 30th District, Virginia.

He says too many African Americans are going to jail and too much money is being spent.

"We are spending $67 million dollars of taxpayer funds to enforce marijuana prohibition," said Sen. Ebbin.

Under the current law, a first offense will cost someone $500 and 30 days in jail.

Sen. Ebbin's bill would reduce the fine to $100 and would only be a civil offense - like a parking ticket.

However, distribution of pot would still be illegal. It would get reduced to a misdemeanor, if less than 1 pound, according to the legislation.

The proposal is getting mixed reviews in Virginia.

"It's bad because it is not good for the children," said Esmarta Billdoro, a mother.

"That's just one less reason to take people to jail," said one man who did not identify.

Jeremy Mayer is an associate professor at George Mason University and teaches government.

He said the road to marijuana decriminalization is being paved, but this is just a start.

"Virginia is still at heart a purple state, it is a state with a liberal, democratic governor, a conservative legislature. You are going to need a different Richmond to decriminalize marijuana," said Mayer, associate professor at GMU.

State Senator Adam Ebbin said he knows the legislation is an uphill battle.

"This certainly is going to be a tough bill to pass but it's an important conversation to have," said Sen. Ebbin.

The next legislative session in Richmond begins in January.

To take a look at the legislation, you can find it here: http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=151&typ=bil&val=sb686

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