“Victories are on the horizon!” announced a triumphant email from Virginia NORML. “Through the persistent effort of citizen advocacy, the Virginia General Assembly passed two powerful marijuana reform bills in this legislative session that are now headed to Governor McAuliffe for his signature.”
Let’s take a look at them, with the help of Virginia NORML:
End of Automatic Drivers’ License Suspension
The first bill stops the automatic 6-month drivers’ license suspension for first-offense misdemeanor marijuana possession unrelated to moving violations for adults.
Although there is required community service as an alternative to the suspension, this represents a step closer toward reducing the harsh penalties still attached to marijuana offenses in Virginia. The next significant step towards decriminalization or reducing collateral consequences of adult personal possession will come from the study request proposed by Sen. Tommy Norment to the Crime Commission.
“Norfolk City Council voices were heard across the state as they spoke out unanimously supporting decriminalization,” said Decriminalize Norfolk’s Cindy Cutler.
Help for Epilepsy Patients & Beginning of Legal Marijuana Industry
The second bill passed by the General Assembly this year marks the beginning of the regulated marijuana industry in Virginia with the in-state production and distribution of low-THC/high-CBD cannabis oil for patients suffering from intractable epilepsy.
27,000 patients have intractable epilepsy in Virginia, according to Americans for Safe Access. 1,000 Virginians die each year due to uncontrolled seizures, they report.
Patients must first obtain a written certification from their neurologist or other epilepsy specialist before accessing the Virginia-produced medicine.
Up Next: Virginia Governor Elections
“2017 really has been a watershed year for Virginia marijuana policy reform,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML. “Five out of six gubernatorial candidates now support decriminalizing possession and the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously to begin regulating the in-state production of medical cannabis oils.”
The candidates are coming out strong in favor of marijuana decriminalization, almost across the board. Check out the scorecard here. Make sure to let these candidates know your position on the issue — and that you vote.
Action Items: Pressure the Crime Commission to Take on the Study
Push the Commission to commit to the decrim study. They only select a few items to study every year, as they have limited capacity. Let them know this issue is a priority for Virginia. Member contact information can be found here.
Also, on the federal level, we need to support the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017. Learn more about that bill, and talking points, here.
Big Picture: We’re Winning
“The biggest win is that people are talking about marijuana reform,” said Decriminalize Norfolk’s Cindy Cutler. “Let’s face it: Virginians have some of the strictest laws in the country for marijuana use. But this year we at least have elevated the conversation to consider expanding medical and decriminalization.”