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Rutherford Institute Proposes Pot Policy Change in Charlottesville

From NBC29

Original article available here

A legal advocacy group is sounding off on a possible change in drug policy in the city of Charlottesville.  The Rutherford Institute wants the city to de-prioritize marijuana possession.

Charlottesville's Rutherford Institute is getting in the middle of the pot debate.  Rutherford Institute President John Whitehead said, "What Charlottesville can do is they can set an example for the rest of the nation."

Whitehead says that means making pot arrests and convictions less of a law enforcement priority in the city.  "Let's focus on real issues like urban problems, gang problems, homelessness and get off of this thing," he said.

Tuesday Whitehead fired off a six-page letter to city council members asking them to take the lead on ending the war on marijuana.

Charlottesville Vice Mayor Kristin Szakos is open to the idea.  She said, "If they know that somebody is smoking marijuana who isn't causing any other trouble, maybe not arrest them, maybe not charge them."

At a recent council meeting a number of councilors shared that sentiment, but Szakos says possible new pot guidelines might not sit well with police.

"We've heard from police that they're concerned council not be in the business of law enforcement, and I think that's a legitimate position," said Szakos.

But Whitehead says it's time the city made a bold policy move for the nation to follow - a nation, he says, is losing the war on drugs.  "Marijuana is everywhere," he said.  "Even the president of the United States said he inhaled, so it's everywhere."

Whitehead also says it would make good fiscal sense.  He points to a recent Harvard study that says Virginia spends nearly $250 million a year on pot arrests and incarcerations.

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