Virginia made history last week when the state Senate approved a bill that would stop police officers from pulling over and searching vehicles simply because they smell of cannabis. The bill is meant to help stop racial profiling against people of color.
This is a big deal because Black folks are more than three times as likely to be arrested for cannabis, according to the ACLU and the data that has been gathered on cannabis use. In general, stop-and-search because of a cannabis smell is likely to involve stereotyping and impact minority groups negatively.
“This is a small but important step to decriminalizing Black and brown bodies of being targeted by this longtime policing tool, which was really created by politicizing the war on drugs,” said Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of the nonprofit Marijuana Justice, regarding the possibility of passing this new bill. “The odor of marijuana is something that our undocumented community is anxious about because it’s life or death and separation from their families.”
Cannabis Crime in Virginia
While cannabis decriminalization took effect in Virginia this past July, possession of more than an ounce can still result in a serious penalty, and having up to an ounce