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.
The three candidates were Senator Jill Vogel, Senator Bryce Reeves, and Delegate Glenn Davis. Being in Del. Davis’ hometown, he had a very strong showing of support. The other candidates had their supporters as well, passing out brochures, stickers, and fans, and soliciting signatures from passersby to get their candidate on the ballot. Hosted in the Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library and moderated by local talk show host David Parker, the evening kicked off promptly at 7 p.m. The event was sold out online, but there were a handful of empty seats courtesy of the oncoming storm. The questions focused mostly on how national issues would affect the Commonwealth, and the stance they would take on the issues. These topics ranged from Medicare to energy exploration. Finally, the question of interest to medical marijuana patients and reform advocates came about halfway into the one hour event:
Q: What is your stance on medical marijuana, and the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use?
Sen Vogel started by setting a very high bar for the other candidates. She is 100% in favor of medical marijuana in Virginia, as illustrated by legislation she introduced in the 2017 General Assembly. Regarding decriminalization, she said she “was not there yet.” While this may not be the ringing endorsement held by the Democrat candidates, this open-minded view to the possibility of decriminalization distinguishes her from the other Republican candidates.
Del. Davis was next in rotation, and does not lag far behind Sen. Vogel's stated positions. He also introduced a bill to expand the illnesses included in the affirmative defense statutes for medical marijuana. Though the bill did not make it out of committee, his willingness to push medical marijuana forward in the Commonwealth is a positive policy position for patients. Currently, he does not support decriminalization.
And, last in line, Sen. Reeves wrapped up the question with a reminder of the standard position taken by most rank-and-file Republicans. To be clear, he stated that he was “100% against any legalization.” He justified his position by his years of law enforcement, and seeing the damage that drugs can cause. For medical, he stated that he has met with patients and has seen that CBD oil could be helpful. Despite seeing this potential benefit, his position on medical is still “evolving."
The remaining questions focused on hot topics such as gerrymandering in redistricting and the proposed cronyism study. The night was insightful with well considered responses to the crowd-submitted questions. It is encouraging for Virginians who support marijuana reform to know that nearly all the candidates from both parties for the Governor and Lt. Governor races support marijuana policy change in Virginia.
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