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Law enforcement experts weigh-in on VA marijuana legalization

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 5:46 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Marijuana legalization is on its way to Virginia and still hotly contested among Virginians.

Advocates at NORML pushed for this for years.

“This is really a historic step forward for Virginia and ends a discriminatory practice that far too often has targeted Virginians who are young, poor and people of color,” said Virginia NORML’s executive director, Jenn Michelle Pedini.

Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall does not mince words: “The whole idea behind legalization, in general, is both stupid and irresponsible.”

Wednesday, the state legislature voted to move up legalized possession of up to an ounce and the growing of four plants per household.

With legal dispensaries not opening until 2024, Hall expects increased black market sales.

“Where is the marijuana coming from?” he questioned. “This is a great day if you’re a drug dealer. The black market is always going to undercut the legal market price.”

Hall also says the move to legalize marijuana on July 1, instead of in three years like originally approved, minimizes the amount of new training officers will receive, while complicating impaired driving enforcement.

“People that will now use marijuana more freely will naturally get behind the wheel and drive. That will make our roads more dangerous,” said Hall.

Dana Schrad, the president of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police added: “It’s much more involved to investigate impaired driving impacted by marijuana.”

Schrad anticipates the new law will complicate narcotics investigations for K9 units.

“We’re trying to figure out if the most expedient thing to do is just retire those dogs and start with new ones that you train differently or if you can retrain these dogs or repurpose them,” said Schrad.

Radford University criminal justice chair Eric Williams says the state supreme court will likely have to make a ruling on past marijuana convictions.

“If I’m somebody who’s serving time in prison for having an eighth [of an ounce] of marijuana or a quarter ounce of marijuana, I’m going to appeal my sentence,” said Williams.

Williams also says that as more states legalize marijuana, Congress will have to address the possibility of legalization at a federal level.

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