The Virginia General Assembly convened to kick off its 2019 legislative session on Wednesday, and several efforts are being made to reform the state's marijuana policies.
Two bills, HB2079 and SB997, have been introduced to decriminalize marijuana, making simple possession a civil fine of $50 for a first violation instead of an offense punishable by up to 30 days in jail. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) also pushed for marijuana decriminalization in his State of the Commonwealth speech.
Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. have stopped jailing their residents for possession of modest amounts of marijuana, and 10 of those states and D.C. have legalized marijuana for individuals over 21. Polling has shown that almost eight out of 10 Virginia residents support replacing criminal convictions with a fine, and 62 percent favor ending marijuana prohibition all together.
Contact your lawmakers today and urge them to make marijuana policy reform a priority in 2019. Then, share this message with your friends and family in Virginia.
Last Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill into law expanding access for medical marijuana in Virginia. The law allows for practitioners to recommend CBD or THC-A oil for any condition they think would be beneficial to patients. Previously, only those suffering from intractable epilepsy could qualify for CBD or THC-A oil.
Additionally, the law allows any physician to recommend oil to his or her patients. Under the previous law, only neurologists and epilepsy specialists could give a recommendation for medical marijuana. HB 1251 is also considered emergency legislation and went into effect immediately.
We are excited about the many Virginia patients whose lives will be improved by this law.
The Virginia General Assembly convened last week, and marijuana law reform is on the docket! After a disappointing conclusion to last year’s session, the General Assembly appears ready to tackle decriminalization of marijuana.
Late last year, the Virginia State Crime Commission looked at the benefits of marijuana decriminalization in Virginia, and the majority leader of the Senate, Sen. Tommy Norment (R), expressed his intent to introduce a bill to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of marijuana. Sen. Norment’s bill has not yet been introduced, but he has indicated it will make the first offense a misdemeanor rather than making it a civil offense; we don’t expect the penalty for subsequent offenses to be reduced.
Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), on the other hand, has introduced SB 111, which would reduce the penalty for simple possession to a civil penalty: $50 for the first violation, $100 for the second violation, and $250 for the third and subsequent violations. This bill is a huge step forward for Virginia, and Sen. Norment should stick to his promise of real decriminalization and support SB 111.
Considering Gov. Ralph Northam’s pro-decriminalization position during his campaign and the new makeup of the House of Delegates, 2018 could be the year the commonwealth stops arresting Virginians for simple possession.
If you are a Virginia resident, please contact your Senators today and tell them to support decriminalizing marijuana.
On Tuesday, Virginia was faced with a choice between three candidates for governor, all of whom supported some kind of sensible marijuana policy reform. At the end of the day, they decided to back Ralph Northam, who was clearly the best candidate on this issue.
Marijuana Moment reports:
Northam, a Democrat, made marijuana decriminalization a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, often describing the issue in racial justice terms. He also spoke about the medical benefits of cannabis.
Here’s a look at his statements and pledges on marijuana:
“We need to change sentencing laws that disproportionately hurt people of color. One of the best ways to do this is to decriminalize marijuana,” he wrote in a blog post early this year. “African Americans are 2.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Virginia. The Commonwealth spends more than $67 million on marijuana enforcement — money that could be better spent on rehabilitation.”
As a physician, Northam is “increasingly convinced by the data showing potential health benefits of marijuana, such as pain relief, drug-resistant epilepsy, and treatment for PTSD,” his campaign website says. “By decriminalizing it, our researchers can better study the plant so doctors can more effectively prescribe drugs made from it.”
The lieutenant governor also sent a letter to the Virginia State Crime Commission, which is conducting a review of the effects of potential marijuana decriminalization. “Virginia spends $67 million on marijuana enforcement – enough to open up another 13,000 pre-K spots for children,” Northam wrote. “African Americans are nearly 3 times as likely to get arrested for simple possession of marijuana and sentencing guidelines that include jail time can all too often begin a dangerous cycle of recidivism.”
During a debate, Notham mentioned that his father is a judge while making a point about the cost of enforcing marijuana laws.
MPP is looking forward to working with Governor-elect Northam and the legislature to pass beneficial marijuana legislation in the upcoming session.
Virginia will elect its next governor tomorrow, November 7. Please take a minute to examine each candidate's position on marijuana policy before you head to the polls. While every candidate favors some form of reduced penalty for simple possession, they have significant differences in opinion regarding marijuana penalties in the commonwealth.
- Democrat Ralph Northam supports decriminalization of marijuana and legalizing the medical use of marijuana.
- Republican Ed Gillespie opposes decriminalizing marijuana but favors a three-strikes approach for simple possession. The first two violations would not carry criminal charges, but a third would. He is open to "appropriate, limited, tightly regulated use of marijuana for medicinal purposes."
- Libertarian Cliff Hyra supports decriminalization, the establishment of a medical marijuana program, and allowing responsible adults ages 21 and older to consume marijuana.
This election is important, as the governor holds considerable sway over the direction of Virginia's policies. Please visit your local polling station between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. tomorrow, November 7, if you are a Virginia resident. If you don't know where your polling station is, click here to find out. Check your voter registration here, and be sure to bring a photo ID with you when you head to the polling station. Make your voice heard tomorrow!
Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly empowered the state’s Crime Commission to consider whether Virginia should decriminalize marijuana possession. Now, the commission wants to hear from residents.
Between now and Friday, August 25 at 5 p.m., Virginia residents can send written comments to email@example.com or mail them to:
1111 East Broad Street, Ste. B036
Richmond, VA 23219
Then, on October 5 at 10:00 a.m., the Crime Commission will hold a meeting open to the public where you will have the opportunity to make your voice heard in person. The meeting will take place in Richmond, but the exact location will not be announced until the fall.
Nearly eight in 10 Virginians support replacing marijuana criminal convictions with a fine (decriminalization), and 62% favor ending cannabis prohibition altogether.
Virginia’s gubernatorial primary is less than one month away, and MPP has put together a guide on where the candidates stand on marijuana policy issues. Please check out our voter guide so you can be informed on this critical topic before heading to the polls.
We put together a candidate survey and asked each campaign for governor to give us their thoughts on three issues:
1) marijuana decriminalization;
2) medical marijuana; and
3) taxing and regulating cannabis for adults age 21 and over.
Based on their responses to our survey, along with any public statements they have made, we assigned each candidate a letter grade, which you can check out here.
In addition to the governor’s race, each of Virginia’s 100 seats in the House of Delegates will be on the ballot this year. Please consider asking the candidates from your district where they stand on these issues before casting your vote. Let us know if you get any responses.
The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved an amendment to the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that is intended to ease access to medical marijuana for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, serious injuries, and other debilitating conditions.
The amendment, authored by Sens. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), would prohibit the spending of funds on enforcement of a Veterans Health Administration directive that prohibits VA physicians from recommending medical marijuana to their patients, even in states that have made it legal.
If enacted, VA physicians would no longer face penalties for discussing medical marijuana with their patients or completing the paperwork patients must submit in order to participate in state medical marijuana programs. Currently, veterans in states with medical marijuana laws must find a doctor outside of the VA system to discuss medical marijuana as a treatment option and provide the requisite documentation.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed four pieces of cannabis-related legislation this year, including two on Monday. One of the bills signed this week, HB 4094, will ensure that financial institutions that serve both medical and nonmedical cannabis businesses will not be subject to state criminal laws. The other, SB 1524, makes it easier for veterans who receive services from the VA health system to renew medical marijuana registrations.
Her signatures follow last week’s signature on SB 1511, the second of two broad cannabis bills passed this year. That bill includes provisions that will allow businesses serving adult consumers to provide medical marijuana products. It also allows medical marijuana dispensaries to sell concentrates to adult consumers.
The other broad marijuana bill, HB 4014, allows out-of-state investors for marijuana-related businesses along with other changes, and was signed on March 3.
With these signatures, attention can now turn more fully to the roll-out of licenses for businesses that will serve the adult consumer market. Many of the changes that came from legislation this year will make it easier for that transition to take place, including provisions that help established medical marijuana businesses enter into the adult retail market.
Virginia is in its final week of its 2016 legislative session and of the many marijuana-related bills Virginian lawmakers considered this year, only one — SB 701 — has made it to the desk of Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
This limited bill allows the cultivation of cannabis by pharmaceutical processes that would then produce cannabidiol oil. Patients suffering from intractable epilepsy could receive the oil with a written certification from their doctor. While Gov. McAuliffe is expected to sign the legislation, epileptic patients won’t receive any benefit until at least 2017, as the bill requires a second passage next year.
While MPP applauds the Commonwealth’s effort to bring relief to residents suffering from epilepsy, this measure does not go nearly far enough. If you are a resident of Virginia, please ask your elected officials to show compassion for our sickest residents, including those with other serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, intractable pain, and PTSD. Medical marijuana is far less harmful and poses fewer negative side effects than most prescription drugs — especially painkillers — and patients often find it to be a more effective treatment.
We celebrate this narrow victory and look forward to a future where patients can benefit from the expertise of their doctors by finding relief in medical cannabis.