Cannabis Summit informs legislators on how to decriminalize marijuana in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. -- State legislators, agencies, stakeholders and cannabis reform experts packed the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond for Wednesday's Virginia Cannabis Summit.

Attorney General Mark Herring says the day-long summit will teach and enlighten state leaders on what steps need to be taken if marijuana is decriminalized in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Herring has called for the “immediate decriminalization” of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

"For me, the system is broken. It's unjust. It's not working and the way to fix it, first of all, is to move and decriminalize possession of small amounts and address those past convictions. But for me, I think we should move to legalize and regulate adult use," said Herring

Herring says the criminal enforcement of marijuana laws is expected to pass $81 million a year in Virginia. He also says arrests for marijuana possession in Virginia have more than tripled from around 9,000 in 1999 to nearly 29,000 in 2018.

On Wednesday, panelists from across the country including law enforcement officials, experts, and legislators presented how they have decriminalized or legalized adult use.

"There are questions that we need to answer. Other state's examples have shown that it takes some time to put the infrastructure in place to make it work, but we can take those steps and do that this session and I'm hopeful that we're going to do it," said Herring.

"It’s clear to me that the time for cannabis reform has come. Justice demands it. Virginians are demanding it. And I’m going to help make sure we get this right."

Opposing sides have expressed concerns that if marijuana is decriminalized there would be an uptick of drug use.

The summit is set to wrap up around 4 p.m. Wednesday.

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