Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment, R-James City

NORFOLK — In a switch, a powerful Republican in the General Assembly says he supports studying the decriminalization of marijuana.

Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., majority leader of the Virginia Senate, announced his position Tuesday while speaking before the Norfolk City Council.

Norment, R-James City, said the issue should be studied by the Virginia State Crime Commission, which makes recommendations to the legislature. The lawyer emphasized that he is for decriminalization, not legalization. Under decriminalization, possession of marijuana remains illegal but is treated as something like a traffic offense, punished by a ticket or fine.

“I think it’s absolutely crazy that we continue to lock people up for possession of a modest amount of marijuana,” said Norment, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

“We are tough on crime. It’s a question of what crimes we want to be tough on.”

Last year, Norment voted against a decriminalization bill.

But he told the Pilot that his views may be changing.

“When I speak to millennials, they see things very differently than I do,” he said.

Information from The Washington Post and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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