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Let's Be Blunt: Locals Push for Decriminalization of Marijuana

February 25, 2012

Marijuana is the reason Jordan McNeish recently spent six months behind bars.

"It was a relatively small amount, about $400 worth," he said. "I lost that time of my life, put my education on hold."

Just last week, he took his cause to Facebook and created the group "Charlottesville Residents for the Decriminalization of Marijuana." He earned quick support, presenting his research to Charlottesville City Council last Tuesday.

"I got almost 200 signatures plus 90 likes on Facebook, but it's just started," he said.

Decriminalizing marijuana is not an issue councilors have heavily considered before, but McNeish received positive feedback. Councilor Kristin Szakos is one who is questioning the stiff punishment for smoking pot.

"[It's] the question of whether it's really a more dangerous drug than alcohol, whether it's really a good use of our national resources to imprison people for that," Szakos said.

McNeish said his six months in jail cost taxpayers more than $17,000 -- what he calls an unnecessary punishment for an unnecessary crime. Even if he has council support, councilors can't pass anything that goes against state law.

Councilors can, however, pass a resolution to make their thoughts known.

"If alcohol is legal and regulated and taxed, then I think that's a reasonable approach to take with marijuana, as well," Szakos said.

"I think people are just coming along, and in 20 years, I think everyone will probably be on the side of legalization," McNeish said.

There's no word if council plans to take the issue up again at its next meeting.

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