Category Archives: General

Students for sensible drug policy launch ReVAMP, with a goal to end marijuana prohibition in Virginia

The Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) chapter at Virginia Tech kicked off its ReVAMP campaign on April 20, 2016, to bring to light conversations about drug policies in Virginia.

The Repeal Virginia Marijuana Prohibition (ReVAMP) event is a Virginia-wide event with the goal to end marijuana prohibition in Virginia.

 

http://m.collegiatetimes.com/news/students-for-sensible-drug-policy-launch-revamp-with-a-goal/article_aae7c418-07fb-11e6-a654-e75dc0a82b12.html

Will Marijuana Med Be Made in Virginia?

Many people who suffer from epilepsy report that a medication derived from the marijuana plant doesn’t get them high but does prevent seizures, and after parents lobbied for their sick children to have access, Virginia’s legislature signed off.  Now, those parents want the General Assembly to legalize manufacture and distribution of cannabidiol or CBD oil as Sandy Hausman reports.

http://wvtf.org/post/will-marijuana-med-be-made-virginia

Medical Marijuana Bills Gain Support from Epilepsy Advocates

Last weekend the Virginia State Senate Committee on Education and Health convened a hearing on SB 1235, a bill from Alexandria’s Sen. David Mardsen, which would allow for the use of cannabidiol and THC-A oil for the treatment of epilepsy. Several families were on hand to present testimony at the hearing, including Lisa Smith, who’s daughter Haley actually had a seizure before the legislators, and Beth Collins, who had to leave the state with her daughter Jennifer to seek medical marijuana in Colorado. Mrs. Collins told the legislator that cannabis oil give her daughter a better quality of life than the other medications that are available to her, which have harsh side effects.

These hearings follow the news that the Epilepsy Foundation of Virginia supports SB 1235 and HB 1445, which we have previously covered here.  An article from EFVA executive director Suzanne Bischoff appeared on the Augusta Free Press last week, advocating for changes to the Code of Virginia and steps by the State Health Department to help make this plant available to those that need it and to further research of marijuana’s beneficial health effects.

Weekly News Update

Thanks to everyone for your support thus far. Our petition has under 250 supporters to go for us to reach our goal!

If you can make it to Richmond next Friday, the 16th of January, please consider coming to Richmond with us and our friends at VANORML for Lobby Day 2015. We will be meeting with our State Representatives to help show our support for marijuana decriminalization, medicinal use, and hemp farming. Please visit the Lobby Day page and register if you can make it.


In other news, VA NORML have raised over $900 to put up a pro-decriminalization billboard up adjacent to Route 360 in Richmond

Virginia Tech’s WVTF reporter Sandy Hausman has a nice 5 part series on Marijuana Reforms in Virginia. Other parts can be found amongst her archives here

Delegate Kaye Korys is one of the patrons of SB 686, and she’s written up a bit on the Falls Church News-Press as to why she’s supporting the bill.


Virginia isn’t the only state considering marijuana legislation in 2015, we’ve put together a list of news and opinion articles from around the country for you:

Arizona lawmaker proposes legalizing pot

Indiana lawmakers give up push to decriminalize, focus on medical efforts

Kansas: Marijuana reform petition presented again

Kentucky House speaker to file medical marijuana bill

Maine – At least four bills planned on marijuana use

Marijuana legalization in Ohio — it’s not ‘if’ or ‘when,’ it’s ‘how’: Rob Ryan (opinion)

Legalize marijuana in Tennessee

Texas Is the Next Big Test for Legal Weed

 

 

Supporting Arguments

Little did we know when we started this project how much of our time would be spent working on it. Keeping up with the news and all of our efforts on social media has been quite the time sink, yet we are confident that things will pay off in the end. Our petition is nearing 1900 supporters and Lobby Day is fast approaching, so we will keep up the fight into 2015 and make sure that Virginia moves forward with decriminalization.


 

Here are a few  of decriminalization support articles that I wanted to share with you today. Each of these articles is well written and brings up great points that need to be brought up when dealing with opposing viewpoints.

In the Richmond Times-Dispatch, guest writer Robert Sharpe of the Common Sense for Drug Policy goes all the  way back to the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and talks specifically to the waste of “public safety resources at a time when the General Assembly is grappling with a budget shortfall. ”

Times-Dispatch opinion writer A. Bart Hinkle has an article on the Bristol Herald Courier’s TriCities.com arguing that Virginia should sell off it’s monopoly alcohol sales in the state, and make up for the lost profits by legalizing weed.  Hinkle has been proposing a change in the marijuana for years now, arguing about the failure of prohibition in 2011 and advocating for full legalization last year as well. We’ve reached out to Mr. Hinkle to see if he would consider writing more, and will let you know if we see anything else from him.

One of the arguments that keeps getting bandied about by legalization opponents is that legalizing marijuana will lead to a rush of underage drug use. This is just not the case, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum notes that teen pot use has been falling since California enacted medical marijuana laws in 1996. Marijuana use among 8 -12 graders from 1996 to 2014

Mr. Sullum’s article feed is well worth watching for articles dealing with drug laws across the country.

Andrew Jenner gets into the data of Harrisonburg marijuana arrests on the Old South High blog.  Jenner shows that misdemeanor possession charges are at a 5 year high, a number that would disappear if SB 686 is made law. This is an interesting bit of analysis that should be used as a template for how decriminalization can be approached at the local level.

Weekly news update

It’s been an interesting week. In addition to publishing an article over at AltDaily, Change.org also featured our petition and our supporters skyrocketed over a thousand people in less than 3 days!  We’ve got just about a month to reach our goal of 2,500 supporters, so please sign and share!


Adam Ebbin on was on the John Fredericks Show last week for an interview about SB 686.


From the Department of Mixed Messages comes news from Washington. On Thursday Congress passed the so-called ‘cromnibus’ bill, which will fund the Federal Government through next October. A few of the provisions attached to the bill are worth mentioning. An amendment by Maryland Representative Andy Harris would prevent the District of Columbia from enacting Initiative 71, which legalized home cultivation and possession of small amounts of pot. While it may seem a victory for Harris and the anti-legalization crowd,  the incoming mayor-elect of DC has said that she will allow marijuana to be completely unregulated if Congress prevents Washington from enacting Intiative 71.

While the Cromnibus’s  DC rider has been making the most press, another more important provision will also be going into effect, one which will prevent law enforcement from using federal funds to prosecute medical marijuana patients or legal dispensaries in states in which it is legal. This prohibition on federal enforcement will have a huge effect on the Department of Justice, who’s outgoing Director Eric Holder has recently expressed his willingness for reform.

The DOJ has also recently requested that the FDA consider rescheduling pot from its current Schedule 1 status, which, if enacted, would immediately allow limited medical marijuana in Virgina. On top of that, they have also instructed U.S attorneys not to prosecute Native American tribes from growing or selling marijuana on reservations. This will probably be more important in states with legalization measures in place, and probably won’t affect Virginia’s Pamunkey Tribe in Prince William County. [edit: Twitter user Cleve_N_Twain pointed out that this applies even in states that prohibit pot. /HT]


Weekly short links

We hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving with their friends and family. Here’s our weekly roundup of the news.


Washington DC ABC affiliate WJLA has aired a segment on SB 686, quoting George Madison associate government professor Jeremy Mayer, who said “Virginia is still at heart a purple state, it is a state with a liberal, democratic governor, a conservative legislature. You are going to need a different Richmond to decriminalize marijuana.”


Additional coverage on SB 686 from Arlington’s ARLnow.com, which also notes that the bill faces long odds with Republican control of both the House of Delegates and the Senate.


A bi-partisan group of House Representatives are sponsoring a bill to allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to discuss and recommend medical marijuana to their patients. The VA currently prohibits their physicians from recommending medical marijuana to their patients for the treatment of chronic pain or PTSD. The proposed bill, the “Veterans Equal Access Act,” was introduced by Oregon’s Earl Blumenauer, California’s Dana Rohrabacher, and 10 others.


While not directly relevant to Virginia’s efforts, we would like to give kudos to Georgia State Senator Curt Thompson, who has introduced two pieces of legislation to legalize medicinal and recreation marijuana in the state.


Vice.com has a write up on what’s next for marijuana proponents in Washington DC following the success of Initiative 71 this fall. The DC Council is looking for ways to start taxing and regulating the sale of pot, while at the same time Maryland Congressman Andy Harris will “consider using all resources available to a member of Congress to stop this action.” While Congress has the ability to overrule any law passed in DC, it seems unlikely that any such efforts will be successful.


The International Business Times looks at how marijuana farms, both legal and illegal, negatively impact the environment.


US Senator Ron Johnson, who will be in charge of the committee reviewing Washington DC’s Initiative 71, says that while he opposes marijuana legalization, he strongly supports state’s rights and would like to hold hearings over the new bill.


Richmond-Times dispatch reporter Bart Hinkle discusses ending Virginia’s monopoly on alcohol sales and making up for it with money from marijuana legalization.


A Williamsburg man is facing grand jury charges after allegedly accepting 14 pounds of weed in the mail.


RedAlertPolitics.com notes that marijuana arrests have declined over the past 5 years, but are still twice as high as they were in the 1990s.

 

Catching up on old news

There are a few news items from the past year or so that I’ve found since starting this site, so in the interest of clearing my browser tabs out I’m going to post them so that we can move on to more current events.


In August, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe reiterated his support for medical marijuana, adding that he is not ready for full legalization and that any efforts would have to go through the General Assembly. The governor stated that the issue is not a priority that he will push for and that supporters need to talk to their state senator or delegate about getting anything done.

Let’s see him up on that.


A March poll by Connecticut’s Qunnipiac University finds overwhelming support by Virginia voters for medical marijuana, finding 83% support it. Respondents were split 46-48% in favor/in opposition of recreational marijuana. The poll shows broad support for medicial use by both Republicans and Democrats and the 18-29 and over 65 year old age groups. Approval of recreational is higher among Democrats and 18-29 year olds, and is opposed by a majority of Republicans and those over 65. Interestingly, only 39 percent of those polled admitted to having smoked marijuana.


Charlottesville’s local NBC29 WVIR affiliate aired this segment earlier this month about NORML’s efforts in the state. It has some choice quotes from Albemarle County Chief of Police Steve Sellers, who says that “this is the most effort that I’ve seen towards legalization or decriminalization of marijuana in my [32 year] career.” Of course Sellers is concerned about things from an enforcement perspective, and is glad to have the luxury of getting in front of things and preparing for things in a way that wasn’t achieved in Colorado.

We also found information about the Charlottesville city council that deserves mention. In early May 2012, legal advocacy group The Rutherford Institute sent a six page letter to city council members asking the city to ‘take the lead on ending the drug war’ and de-prioritize marijuana possession. Later that month, the council debated a resolution to that same effect, while eventually passing a final resolution to “ask state lawmakers to rethink marijuana laws” by a 3-2 vote. A year later an ordinance that would have taken jail time off the table for first time possession offenders failed 3-2.


An earlier post here mentioned Delegate Bob Marshall’s HB 684 as pending for the 2015 General Assembly session, which would remove language from the Code of Virginia which allows marijuana by prescription. It’s worth mentioning that since marijuana is a Schedule I drug, physicians are prohibited from prescribing the drug, and can only ‘recommend’ it. The bill is indeed dead, but I bring this up because of this article in the Charlottesville paper The Cavalier Daily, which has some great quotes from Del. Marshall, which I’ve consolidated.

“Drugs should only be taken if you’re sick[…] Folks … will lose their political liberties because they won’t have the mental moxie to fight the tyranny that is ever growing in our society right now[…] If you think smoking dope is going to give you the mental capacity you need to fight off the police state, think again[…] Look, you’ve got enough problems with kids drinking booze and falling off balconies.”

“Drugs should only be taken if you’re sick”, unless his bill passed.


The Associated Press reports that the Virginia Department of Forensic Science will no longer routinely process marijuana in misdemeanor cases. This is due to the backlog in processing controlled substances labs.


Outgoing US attorney general Eric Holder is ‘cautiously optimistic‘ about Washington and Colorado’s legalization efforts, says the DoJ will sue them if they don’t keep things in line.

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Announcing the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Project

Hello fellow Virginians,

Welcome to the home of the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Project. I have created this site to help coordinate with like minded citizens of the Commonwealth to help us bring about change in our great state. Change has been sweeping across our nation for the past few years, and while I feel that legalization is inevitable, I am no longer content to sit by and wait passively for this to happen. I am creating this organization today to actively call on our elected representatives to support us in this endeavor

The Virginia state assembly will be reconvening in January, and there are already several measures on the ballot that affect drug policy in Virginia. Our aim is to mobilize Virgina’s citizens to pressure their representatives to support  bills which will allow Virginians the freedom to use Marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, and to block any legislation that will prohibit the use of marijuana or increase penalties for its possession.

I am not advocating full scale commercialization of Marijuana at this time. There are too many factors  which makes commercialization problematic, most notably the hypocrisy of allowing corporations to profit from the sale of pot after years of prohibition has ruined the lives of so many minority youths and community. We are instead looking toward the recent legislation passed in Washington DC as a model for our goals, namely the decriminalization of the possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use.  I feel that this is a good starting point for us to aim for, with the understanding that additional measures will come later.

I hope that you will join me. We are looking for anyone that can help us, so please email vmlp@vmlp.org if you would like to contribute.  We will need help writing articles, contacting elected officials, and driving our social and traditional media campaigns, so please contact us if you would like to help. We have less than 60 days before the upcoming General Assembly meeting convenes, so we have to act fast to make sure that we have an impact in 2015.

Thank you,
Michael Wade