Dozens gather inside Hampton church to talk about decriminalizing marijuana

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HAMPTON, Va. - Strong emotions were felt as people came together to talk about the decriminalization of marijuana.

The Hampton Branch NAACP hosted an event Monday evening.

They had a panel of people taking about the pros and cons of decriminalizing marijuana.

By a show of hands most people that attended the meeting admitted they support the decriminalization of marijuana.

Proposals to decriminalization marijuana would make possession a civil violation meaning the laws would be much less severe when comes to punishment.

“I would like to see the decriminalization of it, I support that,” said Gaylene Kanoyton with the Hampton NAACP, “We wanted to put the facts out there and bring experts in so everyone can understand the impact of the decriminalization of marijuana.”

Kanoyton said the purpose of the event was to provide people with information.

One issue emphasized was the disproportionate number of African American males who face marijuana charges.

According to the NAACP Hampton Branch Panelists Included:
Moderator - Barbara Hamm Lee - WHRV Public Radio Host to "Another View"
The Virginia Poverty Law Center -Christie Marra
Sean Slaughter, Community Activist
ACLU Claire Guthrie Gastanga
Hampton Deputy Police ChiefArchie
Hampton Commonwealth Attorney Anton Bell
Hampton University Police Chief David Glover
Daily Press reporter Travis Fain
Hampton/Newport News Community Service Board Director Natale Ward Christian

“I think we need to look at this intelligently as a society,” said Glover.

The panel answered questions and listened to people express their concerns inside the Bethel AME Church on Lincoln Street in Hampton.

Many in the crowd support of the idea of decriminalizing marijuana – but some were against it.

One woman against the decriminalization of marijuana told the panel she is a middle school teacher and said kids are selling marijuana.

She said she could smell it on the students.

“What in the world are we thinking about if were supposed to be leaders for children,” she said.

Jenn Michelle Pedini, Executive Director of Virginia NORML said, “I think this is a fantastic.  It's really exciting to see this conversation happening at the community level and ultimately driving policy state level.”

This year, Virginia lawmakers rejected several bills to decriminalize marijuana possession.