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Decriminalize Virginia Beach at City Council

On March 7th, Decriminalize Virginia Beach’s first event was a success. Why? Because it happened. For an issue to be discussed by a city council, it must be brought before the city council. After over 25 years of living in this city, I have finally realized the power of speaking truth to power in a professional presentation. With only three minutes, it also had to be concise.

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Hampton NAACP Forum on Marijuana Decriminalization

Hampton Roads includes nine independent Virginia cities, with the Chesapeake Bay dividing the Southside and the Peninsula. Much like the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel connects these two regions, the rising support for decriminalization is uniting communities across Southeastern Virginia.

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Republican Lt. Governor Candidates on Marijuana Reform

Although the Virginia Beach Tea Party does not generally invoke thoughts of marijuana reform, thankfully, this is not the case. At a forum sponsored by the group, three Republican Lieutenant Governor candidates squared off to highlight their individual strengths. To be blunt, there were significant differences, particularly on the topic of marijuana policy.

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House Republicans Favor Criminal Penalties for Simple Marijuana Possession

 

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There were a historic 21 marijuana-related bills presented in the Virginia General Assembly this year. Unfortunately, most were dead on arrival in the Virginia House of Delegates. Each of the 6 expungement bills, both decriminalization bills, and the drivers license decrim bill, heard by the House Courts of Justice Criminal Law subcommittee were killed along party lines, with Republicans voting to table each of the 9 pieces of legislation. Vivienne Smith, the Director of the Virginia chapter of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition stated that she was disappointed the republicans on the committee so swiftly tabled bills supported by the majority of Virginians. “It’s unfortunate that the republicans in the House aren’t being more pragmatic. Marijuana is now a mainstream topic of debate and will only become more so as we approach the 2016 elections. Holding steadfast to the notion that marijuana users are criminals will only hurt our party.”

Pam Novy, the Executive Director of Virginia NORML, states that she remains optimistic, in spite of the recent setback. “While the likelihood of advancing similar legislation now in the Senate has certainly decreased, it’s clear that many republican lawmakers see the need for change. Many are now willing to admit, at least privately, that criminalizing a substance that’s been used by nearly half of Virginians is simply wrong.”

DONATE today.

Virginia NORML shows lawmakers that cannabis reform is a SERIOUS issue for constituents RIGHT NOW.

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VIDEO: Dressing for Success at Lobby Day

Check out this entertaining video produced by Brian & Tammy Mundy, Jefferson Area NORML's fearless 2015 leadership, on preparing to put your best foot forward for Lobby Day.

Join Virginia NORML's grassroots movement for cannabis reform in Richmond on January 14 for Lobby Day, as we visit lawmakers and their legislative aides in person.  Register: vanorml.org/lobby

 

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Virginia NORML Unites Coalition to Lobby General Assembly for Marijuana Decriminalization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 7th, 2016

 

Virginia NORML Unites Strong Bipartisan Coalition to Lobby General Assembly for Marijuana Decriminalization

RICHMOND, VA: The Virginia chapters of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and RAMP, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition will join forces to lobby the General Assembly in Richmond on January 14th at 8:30 a.m. Advocates from around the state will meet with legislators in support of at least one bill, SB 104, a marijuana decriminalization bill.

Leaders from both groups understand that changing harmful marijuana laws is a bipartisan issue and look forward to engaging legislators from both sides of the aisle.

“Because the Virginia constitution does not allow for a “ballot initiative,” the type of initiative that got marijuana legalization on the ballot in Colorado, lobbying events are especially important in Virginia”, stated Pamela Novy, Ph.D, the Executive Director of Virginia NORML. “The Christopher Newport University poll from January, 2015 clearly shows that 71 percent of Virginians support decriminalizing marijuana possession,” said Novy.

One bill Virginia NORML will advocate for on Lobby Day is SB104. The bill, introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), will remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana in the Commonwealth and replace them with a civil fine. This legislation will remove punishments that disproportionately impact young adults and people of color. If passed, it would allow Virginia to join the 20 states, including Maryland, DC, and North Carolina, that no longer punish marijuana consumers with criminal charges and jail time that adversely impact prospects for jobs, student loans, scholarships and child custody. In addition, Virginia stands to save tens of millions of dollars spent annually arresting and prosecuting over 22,000 citizens for simple possession.

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Contacting Your Legislators Before Lobby Day

As we approach the start of the General Assembly session this January 2017, Virginia NORML knows that it is important to be in contact with our elected representatives. This time of year, state legislators are especially receptive to constituent ideas, and nearly every lawmaker will hold a town hall event of some sort in your area. These are excellent opportunities to publicly ask them some of these questions, and force them to explain any regressive positions they might hold. If they opt to take a more progressive stance, then you can hold them to it. Virginia NORML has built our Annual Cannabis Conference (January 29th) immediately preceding our Lobby Day (January 30th) in order to help cannabis activists from across the state to come together and learn about lobbying so that our voice is heard loud and clear in the General Assembly.

Sunday's conference will feature a lobbying workshop, advice from our elected officials, and local policy reform groups. Monday, lobbying teams will meet with legislators before being introduced in the Senate Gallery. We'll wrap up the day and share our successes with a reception at a nearby restaurant. 

The key thing is to make contact now and start to build a relationship with them if you can. Share your personal stories about medical uses, a family member being arrested, or a desire for fiscal responsibility. Ideally, Virginia NORML members will be called upon by a lawmaker or their staffer when they need information about marijuana policy!

Here are some things you can say to your State Senator and Delegate:

- Virginia is one of the very few states that are REGRESSING on this issue, arresting 76% more of its citizens for marijuana possession than 10 years ago. [This Washington Post article provides background]

- Marijuana prohibition subsidizes drug cartels and related criminal activity.

- Arrests of black people in Virginia for marijuana increased by 106 percent from 2003 to 2013, accounting for 47 percent of the state’s arrests even though Virginia’s population is only 20 percent black, and usage rates for both blacks and whites are the same.

- Marijuana prohibition costs Virginia's taxpayers $67-125M each year, funding that could be used for other state priorities, or to focus on solving real crimes.

Here are some questions you can ask them in person:

- [Given that Virginia has some severely underfunded budget priorities,] do you support Virginia spending between 67 and 125 million dollars each year to arrest, prosecute, and sometimes even incarcerate non-violent marijuana consumers?

- The Washington Post embarrassed Virginia recently by pointing out that we are arresting MORE marijuana consumers every year, while every other state is figuring out that this tactic is not improving anything. Do you support the common sense path taken already by half the states to decriminalize marijuana possession, so that we can focus on bigger priorities, such as ____?

 

After you make contact, report back to us and let us know what you learned. This will help guide our work going forward. And thank you for taking the time to make Virginia a better and more freedom-loving place to live.

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Urgent Action Alert: 'Just Say No to Bryce Reeves' NORML PAC Fundraiser

Virginia NORML needs your help! We have an urgent opportunity to remove Senator Bryce Reeves from office, a staunch prohibitionist standing in the way of changing Virginia's marijuana laws. Help elect his opponent, Ned Gallaway, by contributing to the NORML PAC fund!

An urgent message from Virginia NORML Policy Director, Ed McCann:

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Getting Through to Bryce Reeves

On the night of the Culpeper County candidate forum, I listened to all who came on stage to discuss the issues. Afterward, I first went up to Nick Freitas (House District 30 candidate) who I saw at the GOP pig roast and was very impressed. He was very warm towards me and very understanding. I explained to him I really appreciated his hard work in the military and have a great respect for him. Then I spoke with him about medical marijuana reform. I explained to him my situation with pharmaceutical drugs and what it did to me personally and how it could help millions of people.

I then went up to Bryce Reeves (District 17), who currently represents me in the Senate. The look on his face made clear that he wasn't happy to see me. I had no intent on speaking to him about marijuana law reform -- I wanted to talk to him about his political views and policies because I had never heard him speak nor have I ever met him before. He turned his back to me for a good 3 minutes but I patiently waited to tell him I stand with him for his conservative values, however, that backfired. He looked at me like I was a criminal because I wore my marijuana leaf lapel pin. Or that's my guess. I finally said, "Senator Reeves, it's a pleasure to meet you." He looked at me and said, “I don't have time for you, you people have been badgering me" and walked away.  I then loudly replied, "Mr. Reeves, I am a Republican voter and you just lost my vote." People got very quiet around me and said what a rude man he was.

Kim Sadler
Director, Culpeper County NORML

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NoVA NORML October Chapter Meeting

We had a truly tremendous meeting on Oct. 13. Lots of meaty, semi-wonky talk about politics and the political process, courtesy guests Del. Patrick Hope (whose last name describes what he gives our cause here in Virginia) and Tom, the knowledgeable staffer of Candidate for Delegate Paul Krizek.NoVaNORMLmtg_2015-10_(4).jpg

Both of them informed that we have more support for our issue in Richmond than we realize - albeit still not enough. It was recommended to us that we put our time, energy and money into those races we can do the most about affecting - and most of all, we need to VOTE! (Tues., Nov. 3.)

There was much discussion about one legislator in particular, Mr. Bryce Reeves of the 17th District.  He's staunchly against any mode of cannabis reform at all, even medicinal, and he is openly contemptuous of our plight and even ourselves.  (Read about our fellow activist Kim Sadler of Culpeper NORML about her recent experience with his rude cold shoulder.)  While Mr. Reeves is fairly safe in his ultra-red district, Mr. Hope suggested to us that we mount a Twitter campaign to (politely!) inform him (@ReevesVA) of how out-of-step he is with an increasing majority of Virginia citizens.  (Voters reading this from the 17th District, please start your tweeters!)

Furthermore, we were reminded that we have both Democrats and Republicans on our side in Richmond, even if some of them are being quiet about it.  That can change, however, if we activists are loud enough.  Mr. Hope stressed that reform absolutely is possible here in Virginia in the coming years, but only if we keep pushing for it.

It was a genuinely good, highly useful meeting.  We had a great turnout for a new location, and the meeting we have planned for November 10 should be a bit more fun-like, with more focus on effective activism and eventual industry.

Wanna see some pics?...

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