Virginia congressman wants to change marijuana policy

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BEDFORD CO., Va. (WDBJ7) A congressman who represents part of our region wants to change federal law when it comes to marijuana.

Representative Tom Garrett is sponsoring legislation that would decriminalize pot and give states power to regulate the drug as they see fit. Right now marijuana offenses are prosecuted at that court house and every other one in Virginia. But Garrett's bill could change that. If the legislation becomes law, marijuana could be treated just like alcohol and tobacco in the eyes of the law.

Legislators in eight different states have passed laws that allow recreational use of marijuana, but under federal law it's illegal for any private individual to have the drug in their possession.

"What we have now is a system where the Federal government does not uniformly enforce its own laws," Rep. Tom Garrett (R) Fifth District said.

Garrett, who represents parts of central and southern Virginia, wants to change marijuana policy altogether.

"Young people in Virginia are held to a different standard than young people in a different state. That is ridiculous and it is, by definition, not justice," Garrett said.

Garrett introduced a bill Monday that would take marijuana off the list of federally controlled substances. If passed, the drug could be regulated by states, just like tobacco and alcohol.

"I don't necessarily think the legislation will move very quickly, but on the other hand the Republicans in congress seem to want to move quickly on a lot of policy issues,"
Ed McCann, a cannabis policy expert, said.

McCann, who lives in Garrett's district, has been fighting for the legalization of marijuana in Virginia.

"The majority is there now in Virginia and nationwide, to begin to tackle this issue in an adult way and address the concerns that are there. Treat it as an adult substance that needs some rules around it, but can be handled," McCann said.

"Any law that is not uniformly enforced needs to be addressed or changed," Garrett said.

A bill similar to Garrett's was introduced in the Senate two years ago, but it was not passed. Garrett believes his colleagues in Congress are more educated on the issue now and he expects them to be more receptive to his legislation.