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.”
When our members' letters are published, our message reaches many people who otherwise might know little about the critical need for marijuana policy reform in Virginia. Virginia NORML encourages you to write a similar letter to YOUR local newspaper, and help advance reform in Virginia.
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NBC29’s Alana Austin reports on Virginia NORML’s successful Lobby Day at the General Assembly in Richmond.
WDBJ7’s Khiree Stewart interviewed Dr. Melanie Crovo about Virginia NORML’s successful Lobby Day in Richmond. Melanie recently joined Virginia NORML and attended our state conference in October. She raises many of the common sense points supporting Virginia’s critical need for cannabis policy reforms.
NBC29’s Cat Boardman reports on Jefferson Area NORML planning for Virginia NORML Lobby Day in Richmond. Executive Director Dr. Pam Novy shares a personal story about why she is a strong advocate for marijuana law reform.
The Culpeper Star-Exponent consistently provides excellent coverage of Virginia NORML events and issues. Their latest piece features our executive director, Dr. Pam Novy, and the executive director of Virginia RAMP, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, Vivienne Smith, and their bipartisan effort to advance cannabis reform in the 2016 legislative session.
Be sure to take the 8News Daily Poll: Should marijuana be decriminalized in Va.?
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
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.Read more
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.