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Study shows marijuana possession arrests are rising in Virginia

According to a recent report, a study has revealed that your chances of getting arrested for drug possession are higher than ever in Virginia. While most states appear to be moving toward the legalization of marijuana, Virginia seems to be moving towards a further crackdown on marijuana usage.

Researchers at the Drug Policy Alliance in New York found that from 2003 to 2014, marijuana arrests increased by over 75 percent in Virginia, which is a vast difference from the 6.5 percent drop nationwide during the same time period. Professor Jon Gettman at Shenandoah University was responsible for compiling the statistics. His national marijuana arrest analysis for the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013 showed that a vast majority, nearly 90 percent, of marijuana arrests in the United States involved mere possession of the drug. His study also revealed that African Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than whites.

Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana. Twenty states have recently reduced or eliminated penalties for minor marijuana-related offenses. With progress being made, it is surprising that Virginia seems to be going the opposite way on the issue. Gettman's study shows that in Virginia, there was an increase of 2,000 arrests from 2011 to 2013.

Some Virginia officials believe that misdemeanor marijuana charges can have a lifelong negative impact on those arrested. Once a person is in the criminal justice system for drug possession, it can be more difficult to find employment and receive financial aid. It is also costing the state millions of dollars to enforce these laws. However, it appears that state law enforcement is still very concerned with the impact of marijuana usage on public safety and is unlikely to reduce enforcement at this time. Virginia residents facing marijuana possession charges may face serious consequences unless they come up with a solid defense to use in court.

Source: The Washington Post, "Marijuana arrests on the rise in Va., blacks arrested three times more than whites," Tom Jackman, Nov. 26, 2015

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