Virginia NORML Finds Evidence Contradicting Commonwealth's Attorney's Statement
Calls on Prosecutor to Apologize or Step Down
Virginia Beach, VA -- Virginia NORML has found published evidence to contradict claims by Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant that no one goes to jail, even nationwide, for first-time simple marijuana possession.
Commonwealth's Attorney Claims No One Jailed For Pot
On March 8, 2012, Virginia Beach Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant was interviewed by WVEC ABC13 regarding Pat Robertson's recent statements supporting decriminalization of marijuana (http://www.wvec.com/my-city/vabeach/CBNs-Robertson-backs-decriminalizing-marijuana-141917043.html).
Mr. Bryant claimed he "knows of no one in jail or in custody, or has ever gone into custody, for simple marijuana possession alone," and "I don't think they're going to come up with a list that's bigger than this, nationwide. In fact I might be surprised if they can find ten."
Evidence That Thousands Are Jailed For Pot
The published Impact Statement for HB 485 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?121+oth+HB485F160+PDF), a bill sponsored by Richmond Delegate Onzlee Ware this year to allow expungement of marijuana convictions and first offender charges, included this research finding:
"According to data from the General District Court Automated Information System for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, 13,128 offenders were convicted in a first offense of possession of marijuana. The majority (81%) received no active incarceration term to serve. Those sentenced to a local-responsible (jail) term received a median sentence length of 15 days. Of the 1,652 offenders convicted of a subsequent possession of marijuana offense, 48% received a local-responsible (jail) term with a median sentence length of nearly one month; the remaining 52% of the offenders were sentenced to probation without an active term of incarceration."
Almost 2500 Virginians (19% of convictions) were incarcerated for first-time simple marijuana possession in just those 2 years.
Virginia NORML also found 5 cases of people currently in jail in Virginia Beach for simple first-time marijuana possession alone. Names and booking numbers can be provided for verification. These names can be found by reviewing inmates and charges on the Virginia Beach Jail website (http://inmateinfo.vbso.net).
A Call For Commonwealth Attorney to Apologize or Step Down
Virginia NORML calls on Commonwealth's Attorney Bryant to publicly correct his statement and apologize, or step down from his position of public trust.
According to Ed McCann, director of Virginia NORML, "Mr. Bryant demonstrates a lack of awareness of not only his own jurisdiction's handling of criminal cases of marijuana possession, but the entire system of prosecution of this victimless crime. A simple internet search was sufficient to find a number of cases that clearly contradict Mr. Bryant's statements. It is unacceptable for a Commonwealth's Attorney to either remain ignorant of or deliberately misstate the facts, when the evidence published by the state is clear and accessible."
A Call to End Arrests for Marijuana Possession
Contrary to some officials' claims, thousands of Virginians are being arrested and jailed for simple marijuana possession. Virginia NORML is one of several statewide organizations advocating an end to arresting nonviolent adults for personal use of cannabis. Virginia NORML educates the public and lobbies the government to create a legal, regulated system of marijuana use and distribution.