Prisoners held on marijuana-related counts hope for release as Virginia moves to legalize recreational use | Govt-and-politics

In the Senate, a bill from Sens. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax and Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth would allow circuit judges to re-examine the sentences of people convicted for marijuana-only crimes. People who were convicted of other felonies, and whose sentences may have been exacerbated by a marijuana conviction, would need to petition the Virginia Parole Board for resentencing.

Surovell said the approach, which was unveiled Friday afternoon, would be less costly to the state, giving it a better chance at passage. Resentencing by the courts would be “vastly” more expensive, he said, though the state is still processing the fiscal impact of the proposal.

“This issue is unfinished business and it needs to be resolved,” he said. He said his and Lucas’ version of the resentencing measure would be part of the broader package from Senate Democrats to legalize marijuana.

“The whole marijuana issue is a multi-headed species right now.”

Virginia’s Parole Board is made up of five members appointed by the governor. Gov. Glenn Youngkin on his first day in office delivered on a key campaign promise to replace all five members who served under Gov. Ralph Northam, who had come under fire by Republicans for a series of release decisions.

The more conservative group Youngkin named includes Cheryl Nici-O’Connell, a former Richmond police officer who appeared in a campaign ad for the governor, and Chadwick Dotson of Wise County, a former prosecutor and judge who last year sought the GOP nomination in a special election for the Senate seat of Ben Chafin, who died from COVID-19.

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