Veteran GOP lawmaker again seeks to legalize marijuana
Del. Harvey Morgan is at it again.
The 80-year-old, bow tie-wearing Republican from Gloucester County has proposed decriminalizing marijuana for the second year in a row.
Morgan has scaled back the bill and thinks he has a better chance of getting it through the General Assembly than he did last year -- even though his fellow lawmakers like to snicker about it.
"It doesn't bother me at all,'' Morgan said. "They enjoy joking about it but once I get it through committee I think it will fly through the House."
The bill changes the current $500 criminal fine for simple marijuana possession to a $500 civil penalty, eliminates the 30-day jail sentence and the criminal conviction record that would follow a conviction for simple possession.
Morgan, a pharmacist with 31 years in the House, said he thinks criminalizing marijuana has not helped decrease use and can permanently mar the records of people who have made mistakes in their adolescence.
"The penalty doesn't fit the crime,'' he said.
Morgan said he was initially apprehensive about putting the bill in last year because he didn't want to appear soft on crime, but that most of his fellow legislators know that he is doing this for the right reasons. He said 80 percent of residents he has talked to agree with his stance. "They know I'm doing the right thing,'' he said.
In the 2010 legislative session, Morgan also sponsored a separate bill that would have allowed medical marijuana. But he said that he will not introduce that bill again because even though marijuana can be legally prescribed in Virginia for cancer and glaucoma patients, the federal government has made it illegal. Instead, he said he has been trying to work with the FDA, but with little success.
| November 17, 2010; 11:36 AM ET
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