Commonwealth's Attorney Candidates Differ on Marijuana

By: Val Thompson Email
By: Val Thompson Email

February 20, 2013

The race for Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney is heating up, and the two candidates have different ideas about prosecuting marijuana cases.

Current Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman confirmed to the Newsplex on Wednesday that he is planning to seek re-election, and plans to make a formal announcement soon. Chapman also says he has different views on marijuana punishments than his opponent, Democrat Steve Deaton.

Deaton announced his bid for the job earlier this week. He was the Commonwealth's Attorney in the early 1990s, before losing to Chapman.

On Wednesday, Deaton announced that he wants to change the penalty for possessing a small amount of marijuana to a disorderly conduct charge. He says the current drug charge is too harsh on people who are caught with small amounts of the drug, because it requires them to give up their driver's license and may make them ineligible for loans.

Deaton also says that Charlottesville police are spending too much time sending marijuana evidence to drug labs and filing paperwork about marijuana suspects.

"Sometimes we've got to take a step back and look at these things," said Deaton. "Let's restore sanity to the system. Let's use common sense. We're using all these resources with these minor, minor pot cases."

Deaton says he has sent his proposal to the Charlottesville City Council.

Chapman, though, disagrees with Deaton's plan. He says those convicted of marijuana possession can already get a clean record by going through a treatment program, and they can get a limited drivers license while they complete treatment.

Chapman also says Charlottesville police do not neglect more important cases to do paperwork for marijuana investigations.

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