CHARLESTON, W.Va – A Charleston group is pushing for change when it comes to marijuana. The group says it’s time to stop penalizing people who have simple possession.
The use of marijuana has been a popular topic for years, and the conversation is continuing in Charleston with the group Charleston Can’t Wait and city council candidates. They’re trying to get decriminalization cannabis on the ballot during the 2022 election cycle.
“Why I’m personally passionate about this policy is that I’m actually a former state correctional officer so I have a law enforcement background and I know how much we need criminal justice reform,” James Elam, City Council Candidate said.
People like Corey Zinn says he has friends and family members who carry the shame of being a criminal just for having weed.
“Just imagine if we could lift that weight from our friends and they could really be themselves in Charleston and they would really be a live and not feel like they’re a victim,” Zinn said.
To get it on the ballot, the group needs 1,919 signatures on a petition from registered voters and then present to city council. Council then can adopt the measure without amendment with a majority vote – or turn it down in which it’ll go back to the voters on the next municipal ballot.
“I don’t believe in my personal expertise that any West Virginian should be incarcerated over a cannabis related offense,” Elam said.
If majority of voters support the ordinance at election time, it immediately becomes law.
“Over 50% of the nation has access to legal cannabis and we’re just so far behind our laws are outdated and we know that they disproportionality effect communities of color as well,” Zinn said.
By decriminalizing cannabis, it would remove jail time, fees and fines for anyone arrested for possession in Charleston.
“It’ll right so many wrongs from the past but will also save the taxpayers money on not having to enforce cannabis law,” Elam said.
On Monday, the group will gather on the steps of Charleston City Hall to announce their plans to put this on the ballot during the 2022 election cycle. That’ll get underway at 6:30.