RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is promising sweeping changes to the state’s criminal justice reforms that include decriminalizing marijuana, softening the penalties for people caught stealing smaller-dollar items, and reducing the number of Virginians whose driver’s licenses are suspended.
Northam, a Democrat, said at a news conference in Richmond Friday that he’s backing an overhaul of the state’s criminal justice reform that he said would make it more “equitable” and “compassionate.”
He wants to do away with criminal charges for people caught possessing marijuana and instead implement a $50 fine. Northam also wants to raise state’s felony theft threshold from $500 to $1,000 and reducing the number of crimes whose punishments include driver’s license suspensions.
The 2020 legislative session starts next week. Democrats are set to have complete control of the Statehouse for the first time in more than two decades.
Northam’s proposal is likely to face pushback from Republicans, who have pointed to the state’s low crime and recidivism rates as proof that the current criminal justice system is working.