Last Marijuana Reform Bill of Virginia’s Legislative Session Dies in Committee

Last Marijuana Reform Bill of Virginia’s Legislative Session Dies in Committee

SB 745 would have ensured automatic resentencing hearings for current felony marijuana convicts

Yesterday, the Virginia House of Delegates Appropriations Committee voted to kill Sen. Scott Surovell’s bill to grant resentencing hearings for individuals incarcerated for marijuana distribution and parole hearings for individuals serving sentences enhanced by prior marijuana-related convictions on a party-line vote. The bill, SB 745, was the last marijuana-related bill of the legislative session awaiting committee action.

“Yesterday, the House appropriations committee decided to kill a bill with bipartisan support which would have ensured the punishment fit the crime for past felony marijuana convictions,” Surovell said. “The attitude of the majority of Virginians towards marijuana use has changed dramatically since many of these individuals were originally sentenced, and to refuse to acknowledge the draconian nature of these sentences is an injustice.” 

Gracie Burger, State Policy Director for The Last Prisoner Project and an early partner on the bill, said the following: “SB 745 by Sens. Surovell and Lucas provided an urgently-needed solution to the problem of cannabis prisoners left behind bars since the Commonwealth legalized adult-use marijuana last year. Public interest has shifted on the criminalization of cannabis and we must provide a pathway for that shifted position to be reflected in the punishments our state continues to uphold. Virginians sentenced under outdated laws deserve the opportunity to have their sentence reconsidered, as a matter of both fairness and fiscal responsibility, and SB 745 would have provided that opportunity. Continuing incarceration for these individuals is a waste of limited public safety resources that should be prioritized elsewhere”.

Sen. Louise Lucas served as the bill’s Chief Co-Patron. The legislation also received support from Justice Forward Virginia and the ACLU of Virginia.

Passed Senate (22-Y 18-N) on Feb. 15; in the House, failed to report (defeated) in Appropriations (10-Y 12-N).