This week Norfolk City Councilman Paul Riddick broke open the conversation about marijuana decriminalization in Virginia.
The City of Norfolk will study the issue, possibly leading to adding marijuana decriminalization to the legislative package it sends to the General Assembly this year.
Here are 7 things to know about the issue:
1. These laws are racist.
a. Despite roughly equal usage rates, Blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana, according to the ACLU.
b. Marijuana arrests disproportionately impact young black males, taking otherwise law-abiding citizens and turning them into criminals.
2. Police attention is needed elsewhere.
a. At one point this year Norfolk had the 3rd highest murder rate in America — as reported by WAVY in late April.
b. We are at more than DOUBLE the murders as at this point last year.
3. Marijuana possession should not be ruining young people’s lives.
a. There were 798 marijuana-related charges in Norfolk in 2015, according to a NPD spokesperson.
b. Here in Virginia if you’re caught with a joint you face 30 days and $500. Get caught again and it’s a year and $2,500. You also lose your driver’s license for a period and your access to federal student loans becomes limited.
4. We have seen in states like Colorado that the sky does not fall even when marijuana is legalized.
a. In the first three years after legalization, highway deaths in Colorado “plummeted,” according to the Independent.
b. According to Forbes, the legal U.S. marijuana market will grow To $7.1 Billion in 2016. In Colorado alone, there are 16,000 people working at dispensaries. What economic opportunities is Virginia missing out on?
5. There is growing scientific evidence proving marijuana’s medical usefulness.
a. The DEA has blocked studies in America, but they’re moving ahead in Canada. “Medical cannabis use over one year was associated with improvements in pain, function, quality of life and cognitive function,” according to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
b. According to an article in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: “it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”
6. Legalization is inevitable; why should Virginia be at the back of the pack?
a. A Gallop poll last year showed that 58% of us back legal marijuana. The number jumps to a whopping 71% for Millenials, our future.
b. Being late on growing puts Virginia’s farmers, which have a proud tradition of being a leader in the tobacco industry, at a distinct market disadvantage.
7. While this remains primarily a state issue, there are things that can happen at the city level in Virginia.
a. It is up to the discretion of the Commonwealth Attorney whether he prosecutes misdemeanor marijuana offenses, according to the Code of Virginia.
b. The City Council can work with Norfolk Police Chief Goldsmith to move marijuana related arrests and investigations to the bottom of the NPD’s priority list.
c. The City can pass a resolution voicing their support for marijuana decimalization, inspiring other cities to do the same — as they did with uranium mining — thus showing the General Assembly that this is the will of the people.
Let your voice be heard in Norfolk. Email your City Council members: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, MartinThomasJr@gmail.com, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.