Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine surprised many political watchers when he tossed his support behind a new bill to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level.
Marijuana remains illegal in Virginia, but Senator Kaine still wants the state to be protected from federal enforcement if the governor and the legislature decide to decriminalize marijuana in the Commonwealth. That’s why Kaine says he is sponsoring Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s new bill to decriminalize marijuana federally.
“I think the right policy at the federal level is to decriminalize and allow states to make this choice, as we do with other criminal laws," Kaine said. "They can make the choice.”
According to the latest data available from the Virginia State Police, the Commonwealth saw a twenty percent spike in marijuana related arrests between 2016 and 2017, even as some other states have now completely legalized the plant for recreational purposes.
Kaine says it’s time to stop locking people up over their non-violent use of marijuana. “I also think federal decriminalization can go a ways towards dealing with massive inequities in our criminal justice system and the over incarceration of individuals but especially of minorities for low level drug offenses.”
A request to comment from Kaine’s Republican Senate opponent, Corey Stewart, wasn’t answered so far.