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Dem chair Pushkin calls on Gov. Justice to get on board with marijuana pardons

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The chairman of the Democratic Party in West Virginia is calling on Gov. Jim Justice to pardon those convicted of simple possession of marijuana.

WVDP Chair Mike Pushkin said during an appearance Monday on MetroNews “Talkline” that Justice should follow the lead of President Joe Biden who announced the pardons on the federal level last week.

“If they were convicted of a simple possession then I feel that the governor should follow suit and follow the shift in policy that were seeing nationwide,” Pushkin, who also serves a member of the House of Delegates from Kanawha County, said.

Statewide figures, according to Pushkin, indicated that in 2020 there were more than 8,000 arrests for cannabis in West Virginia. He said more than 200 people were put in jail last year.

“It’s too many. Just last year there were 279 West Virginians who were incarcerated for simple possession of cannabis,” Pushkin said.

He added African-Americans in West Virginia were 7.3 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white residents.

Pushkin clarified the idea of a pardon would not apply to people convicted of illegally selling or distributing cannabis, but it is a logical next step towards decriminalizing personal cannabis use.

“In much of the country it’s legal. Here in West Virginia we’re issuing medical cannibas cards because we realize there are people who can get help from this plant. There has been real shift in how we deal with this issue,” Pushkin said.

Pushkin also said those convicted of simple possession face obstacles to employment, finding housing and receiving federal student loans.

“People who can’t find decent jobs, adequate housing, and access to education are more likely to end up on public assistance or to turn to crime to support themselves,” Pushkin said.

MetroNews Reporter Jeff Jenkins contributed to this story.