NORML Supporter Lobbies at a "Kaine Connects" Event

New Virginia NORML member Diane Holladay provided this report of her experience lobbying a staffer of Senator Kaine:

Dressed in black slacks, a Tibetan art T-shirt and sandals, I took a seat in the conference room and watched two very talented ladies patiently explain immigration laws and the “simplicity” of filling out the necessary forms.

Sitting in the back row was a young man dressed in a very handsome vested suit, gazing at the speakers and waiting for his turn.

At 12:05 Gaston Riveros rose from his chair and walking to the front, applauded the two ladies for sharing their vast knowledge and precious Saturday morning.  It was at this time that Senator Kaine’s assistant & caseworker opened the door to “office hours.”

I took a front row seat,  2nd in line to ask about any topic and “please” keep it to 10 minutes so others will have a turn.

Anticipating my soon to be 10-minute meeting, I jotted down a few notes and set my phone up to a single screen shot. Ready to go!

“Next!” Gaston said, as he greeted me with a handshake and offered me a seat.

“Hi, my name is Diane Holladay, I live here in Manassas, and I would like to ask about Senator Kaine’s position on legalizing marijuana.”

Without blinking, Gaston began to ask for and jot down my personal information.

Diane from Manassas was “connected!”

“Here’s what’s on my mind, Gaston, medicinal cannabis and what I can do to help the senator understand the crisis we are in by not having legal access to this amazing plant?”

I quickly spoke about two popular bills that have been in the news, asking if the senator might be aware of them?

  • CARERS Act (S.683)
  • Veteran’s Equal Access Act (H.R. 667)

I spoke about  the staggering death rate of people in and out of our military.

  • On average, 22 veterans are committing suicide every day.
  • Over 20,000 cannabis studies have been documented.
  • Israel has successfully been researching and prescribing medicinal cannabis for over 100 years. 
  • Israeli active duty soldiers are allowed to use medicinal cannabis to treat PTSD, depression, and also increase their ability to concentrate & focus.

I now have about 4-minutes left. I made the statement to Gaston that I would be brief as we finish up, I knew other folks were waiting for their precious few minutes to talk with him.

Seizures. Children. Families suffering. Crippling side effects from traditional prescription drugs.

Even Death. Words I used in rapid succession to help Gaston accurately report (via his notes), the ethical and moral crisis Virginia and other states are in. NOW. TODAY! Because of existing marijuana laws.

  • Desperate parents split their familes up.
  • Move to Colorado, so they can become a resident.
  • In Colorado, cannabis oils prescribed by doctors,  are successfully treating children with seizures and giving them their lives back!
  • Taxes from marijuana sales have put over one million dollars into Colorado schools.

I passionately shared my vested interest in Virginia’s marijuana laws. I have Fibromyalgia. My plan is to replace addictive sleeping pills, an antidepressant, and prescription medications for pain, with medicinal cannabis. Non-toxic & I can grow it myself.

It was at this time that I handed Gaston my phone. On the screen was the snap shot promo for the new Dateline documentary, Growing Hope – The fight for Medical Marijuana for Epileptic Kids. Virginia families wanting to know WHY? Why doesn’t Virginia legalize the marijuana plant?

As Gaston held my phone writing down the details for Growing Hope, I pulled a magazine out of a hard cover notebook and when he was ready, I handed it to him. National Geographic - cover photo, a full-page marijuana leaf.

I asked him to please keep the Nat Geo.

Inside the magazine, I included a bookmark, a pre-typed AARP petition, addressed to Senator Kaine from me. Signed and dated.

The subject, “Better Medicare benefits for seniors.”

It was over. My 10-minute “office hour” had timed out.

Gaston politely thanked me for my time and assured me someone from the senator’s office would be contacting me soon about my concerns.

As I left the conference room, I gave chuckle, and thought to myself, “It feels good to be NORML!”