RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is promising sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice reforms that include decriminalizing marijuana, softening the penalties for people caught stealing smaller-dollar items, and reducing the number of Virginians whose driver’s licenses are suspended.
Northam, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Richmond Friday that he’s backing an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice reform that he said would make it more “equitable” and “compassionate.” The 2020 legislative session starts next week. Democrats are set to have complete control of the state house starting next week for the first time in more than two decades.
“All Virginians deserve access to a fair and equitable criminal justice system,” Gov. Northam said in a statement.
Northam has proposed to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and instead making it a $50 fine. The governor’s proposed legislation would also pardon individuals’ simple possession convictions.
“My proposed criminal justice reform legislation and budget initiatives will combat mass incarceration, increase supports for returning citizens, and ensure meaningful second chances for those who have paid their debts to society. This is a bold step towards a more just and inclusive Commonwealth, and I look forward to working with the General Assembly to pass these measures into law,” the governor continued.