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Virginia NORML Unites Coalition to Lobby General Assembly for Marijuana Decriminalization


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.


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


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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A Message from the Director

Pam Novy, Executive Director, Virginia NORML 

Virginia NORML endorses House of Delegates candidate Ellen Arthur, but just says NO to Senator Bryce Reeves

Virginia NORML is pleased to endorse Ellen Arthur in the 24th House District. Ellen is exactly the kind of representative we need in the House of Delegates, a candidate from rural Virginia with the courage to publicly state that Virginia should not only decriminalize cannabis possession, but also move toward a regulated market. Ellen wants to LEAD on marijuana policy reform rather than "watch and wait" or ignore the issue altogether. We offer Ellen our strongest endorsementIf we want our representatives in Richmond to end prohibition, we must elect those who will make this a priority. Find out here how you can help Ellen win on November 3rd. 

Just say NO to Senator Bryce Reeves! Representing the 17th Senate District, Senator Reeves is a former undercover narcotics officer and a staunch prohibitionist. But it's worse than that. Senator Reeves is the only Virginia lawmaker who voted against the “Affirmative Defense” bill. 

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Get in a Relationship With Your Lawmaker!

 by Ed McCann, Policy Director

Cannabis freedom in Virginia depends on you! Even though a few candidates (Ellen Arthur, Mark Levine) and legislators (Dickie Bell, Adam Ebbin) publicly support improving cannabis laws, some still think Virginians aren't ready.

Even though Virginia NORML is making news headlines hosting senators at our meetings, starting new chapters, and tabling all around the state, that's not enough to achieve common sense reform!

Your job as a concerned Virginian is to visit your representatives and just talk to them. Tell them why cannabis law reform is important to you, and that you will vote based on the issue. Get to know them, and let them get to know you and your story.

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Bringing the Reform Message to the Salem Rotary Club

On September 3 I spoke to 100-plus people—mostly White male businessmen—at their monthly meeting. The Club had asked LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), for whom I am an occasional speaker, for someone to make the case for marijuana. They were gracious hosts, and allowed four other Virginia NORML people to attend and enjoy a free lunch, but it was only a one-hour meeting so there was no time for Q&A and no way to judge their reaction, but the mere fact that they were interested is a good sign.

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Please VOTE

Fellow NORML Virginians,


On November 3rd, vote. Pretty freaking please. Don't dare not vote.  Please.

Most of you will, I know. This is the blog for Virginia NORML - our audience is one of activists and activists vote and get others to vote. I'm choir-preaching. I don't care. I'll say it again: vote. It so very does matter. Especially in Virginia, and particularly especially for Virginia NORML’s single-issue cause.

I vote and I really want you to too. But that doesn't mean dung. You've got to want to get there for a few minutes on a Tuesday (November 3, 2015, between 6am and 7pm) to register your vote, and statistically, very few will. It's your choice not to vote (and I'm not saying anyone reading this won't, but statistically...), but that would be unwise.

Because it really does matter who your Richmond reps are.  Oh man it does. Now and in the future. It matters who represents you in your city or county, because they might go on to represent you in your state or country - whether you want them to or not.

It’s tough.  It's an off-off-year election, the worst kind to have for anyone with any progressive bents, and we have them all the time in Virginia. But that's why every vote matters, because there probably won't be all that many of them.

Things will change as a result of those very few votes, no doubt. Just how, though, is entirely up to who comes out to VOTE. So let it be us. Please, vote.


Talking to your Doctor about Medical Cannabis

My lunch break had begun. I took a few swigs of iced coffee, three bites of a Cliff bar and opened the car door.  Pre-Op physical with my doctor was just a few minutes away. I checked in, and before I could sit down a voice chimes, “Mary Holladay...”

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