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Will Marijuana Amendment Make it Through State Senate?

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When lawmakers meet next Wednesday for a one day session, they'll consider legislation to legalize marijuana this summer.

Now that Governor Ralph Northam has amended legislation legalizing marijuana so that it'll be effective this summer, lawmakers get another crack at it. They get an up or down vote when they meet next week, and House members are widely expected to approve the amendments. But then there are the Senate Democrats.

"People smoke marijuana to get high," Senator Chap Petersen says.  The Democrat from Fairfax City is opposed to creating a new legal industry for marijuana.  "Marijuana is somewhat unique in that the purpose of smoking it is to create an altered mental state, and that may be fine on your own time but once you legalize something people have the ability to pretty much use it anytime they want."

Senator Creigh Deeds is a Democrat from western Virginia who says he's comfortable with the governor's amended bill, although he adds he would've liked to have seen a statewide referendum.

And then there's Senator Joe Morrissey, a Democrat from Richmond.   "I do not intend to support legalization of marijuana this summer unless and until there’s a companion bill that eliminates all mandatory minimum sentences in Virginia.”

Morrissey says he's hoping to persuade his colleagues in the Senate that they should join him in withholding their legalizing marijuana until lawmakers can take action on mandatory minimums.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.