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AG Herring again calls for marijuana reform as arrests rise

New data shows that marijuana arrests rose to its highest level in at least 20 years in 2018.

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia's Attorney General Mark Herring is reiterating his call for cannabis reform in the Commonwealth.

This call comes after new data shows that marijuana arrests rose to its highest level in at least 20 years in 2018.

The Virginia State Police Crime in Virginia Report, marijuana arrests have more than tripled since 1999, topping out in 2018 at 28,866, a 3.5 percent increase from 2017.  

RELATED: Report: Virginia sees 2 percent decrease in violent crime in 2018

About 52 percent of the arrests in 2018 were under the age of 24, and marijuana arrests accounted for 59 percent of all drug arrests in Virginia.

“While other states are moving to a more sensible approach to cannabis, Virginia is still moving in the wrong direction. It makes absolutely no sense,” said Attorney General Herring. “Marijuana arrests are now at their highest level in at least two decades and maybe ever, meaning that even more Virginians, especially young people and people of color, are being saddled with criminal records that can drastically affect their lives. Now is the time to put a stop to this costly, unfair, and ineffective approach, and to pursue a better, smarter, fairer course.” 

RELATED: Virginia AG calls for state to legalize marijuana

In an op-ed, Herring called for the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In the last decade, the number of first-time marijuana convictions in Virginia rose 53 percent, from 6,533 in 2008 to 10,000 in 2017. 

Arrests for marijuana possession have increased by about 220 percent, from around 9,000 in 1999 to nearly 29,000 in 2018. The cost of marijuana criminal enforcement is estimated to exceed $81 million each year.