Bill to end police stops for marijuana odor passes Virginia Senate

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The state Senate approved a bill Friday that would prohibit search and seizures based solely on the odor of marijuana, which activists say is a step toward ending adverse enforcement against marginalized communities.

Senate Bill 5029, introduced by Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, passed on a 21-15 vote.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of Marijuana Justice, a nonprofit pushing for the statewide legalization of marijuana, said her group is excited to see the bill move forward.

“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,” Higgs Wise said.

Black people are more than three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia compared to white people, according to 2018 data from the ACLU. Even after marijuana was decriminalized in July, Higgs Wise said police stops initiated on the smell of marijuana continue to adversely affect minority groups.

“The odor of marijuana is something that our undocumented community is anxious about because it’s life or death and separation from their families,” Higgs Wise said. [Read more at Inside NOVA]

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