Marijuana arrests in Virginia reach highest level in 20 years

By Keya Vakil

July 19, 2019

There were nearly 29,000 marijuana arrests in Virginia in 2018, the highest level in at least 20 years, and more than triple the amount of arrests in 1999, according to the 2018 Virginia State Police Crime in Virginia Report.

Seventy-six percent the 28,886 people arrested were between the ages of 18-34, with more than 13,000 being between the ages of 18-24. 

All together, marijuana arrests accounted for 59 percent of all drug-related arrests in the Commonwealth in 2018. 

The report prompted Attorney General Mark Herring to release a statement, repeating his call for reform of the state’s cannabis laws.

In an op-ed published in June by the Daily Press, Herring called for decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana, action to address past convictions for simple possession, and a path towards legal adult use of cannabis in Virginia. 

“While other states are moving to a more sensible approach to cannabis, Virginia is still moving in the wrong direction. It makes absolutely no sense,” said Herring. “Marijuana arrests are now at their highest level in at least two decades and maybe ever, meaning that even more Virginians, especially young people and people of color, are being saddled with criminal records that can drastically affect their lives.” 

African Americans made up 46% of all first offense possession arrests from 2007 to 2016, despite making up only 20% of Virginia’s population, according to the Virginia Crime Commission. 

Herring’s statement also pointed out that the number of first time marijuana convictions in Virginia has also risen 53%, from 6,533 in 2008 to 10,000 in 2017, and that the cost of marijuana criminal enforcement is estimated to surpass $81 million each year.

Referencing these statistics, Herring was clear about what he wants to see happen. 

“Now is the time to put a stop to this costly, unfair, and ineffective approach, and to pursue a better, smarter, fairer course.”

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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