Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is urging that state lawmakers in Virginia to legalize marijuana when they take up criminal justice reforms during a special legislative session. The special session is to be held next week on August 18th.

In a letter sent to Gov. Ralph Northam, Stoney said state lawmakers “need to take it a step further.” Stoney is referring to the state decriminalizing marijuana last month.

“Not only do marijuana arrests comprise a majority of the total arrests in Virginia, but out of those arrests a disproportionate number are of Black people,” Stoney wrote in the letter. “Let’s not forget the negative impact an arrest and conviction can have on someone’s life, especially when it comes to employment and housing opportunities.”

In his letter, Stoney also said state leaders should legalize the sale of the drug, then direct tax revenue from it to bolster education funding for school districts based on the number of students they serve who live in poverty.

“Our children need support now more than ever, and this restorative justice approach provides that care,” Stoney wrote.

Mayor Stoney has additionally asked the General Assembly to create a statewide database to track police officer misconduct as well as budget more money for mental health services, like the crisis alert system under development in Richmond. He also urged the Assembly to permit the expungement of criminal misdemeanors and certain nonviolent felonies; and fund a statewide eviction diversion program.

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