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Marijuana advocates oppose Youngkin amendment

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Possession of marijuana is now legal in Virginia, in small amounts. But if you have more than a pound it's a felony. Now Governor Glenn Youngkin is proposing a new criminal misdemeanor for people in possession of more than two ounces.

"It is truly a slap in the face for legalization progress," says Chelsea Higgs Wise with Marijuana Justice. "Governor Youngkin's amendment really sets the tone for Virginia's legalization benefits to be felt only by those who can constantly escape criminalization."

Earlier this year, lawmakers failed to agree on a system for regulating the new marijuana industry. Now they're considering a new criminal penalty, a development that J.M. Pedini of Virginia NORML says it is not popular with their constituents.

"Legalization is a policy supported by a super-majority of Virginia voters," Pedini says. "Criminalization is not."

Democrats in the Senate plan to reject the amendment, which must pass both the House and the Senate to be added to the original bill. If the amendment is rejected, the governor will have a choice: sign the unamended bill to crack down on potentially dangerous substances available at Virginia retail locations or veto it and risk the consequences.

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. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.