Virginia NORML 2021 Voter Guide for Local Races

A survey was sent to all Board of Supervisors, City Council, Town Council, Mayor, and Sheriff candidates for the November 3 Election. Below is the grading scale used for based on their answers. 


AUD Support Adult-Use Dispensaries in Locality
MUD Support Medical-Use Dispensaries in Locality



X Oppose



Allowing Medical-Use Dispensaries in the Locality (MUD)

Over three dozen US states and territories, including Virginia, regulate medical cannabis. Virginia’s program is not ideal. Patients find it difficult to access dispensaries that are hours away from their homes. The cost of participation is often a barrier to many as the recommendation, registration, and medication are not covered by insurance or other aid. In addition to the access barriers to patients, there are access barriers to Virginia business owners as well due to the high cost of licensing and vertical integration requirements. Having access to dispensaries that are located near their homes helps to remove these barriers.

Q1: As an elected member of local government, would you support or oppose the location of state-regulated medical cannabis dispensaries in your locality?

Allowing Adult-Use Dispensaries in the Locality (AUD)

Virginia legalized the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis by adults 21+ and is working to establish a fair and equitable regulated market. Legalization and regulation is what best affords states the opportunity to govern its use accordingly, to better provide for consumer and public safety, and to prevent youth access by placing products behind an age-verified counter and reducing illicit sales. Regulating adult-use also provides economic stimulus through job creation and tax revenue, and allows a state to begin undoing the harms of prohibition waged primarily upon young people, poor people, and communities of color. 

Q2: As an elected member of local government, would you support or oppose the location of state-regulated adult-use cannabis dispensaries in your locality?


✓ Sarah Bagley (Member City Council) ENDORSED
A1: Access and affordability are both critical elements for quality healthcare. The health benefits of medical cannabis are clear. We should do everything we can to remove barriers for patients and work to make prescriptions affordable through insurance coverage, including Medicaid.
A2: I support legalization of state-regulated dispensaries. This is a racial justice issue as well as a healthcare issue. The inequities and negative life-long consequences including loss of custody, housing, and employment due to our failed marijuana policies are apparent. I support the General Assembly putting policies in place that encourage minority ownership of these businesses as those communities have been disproportionately punished for what we now agree should be legal activity.

✓ John Taylor Chapman (Member City Council) ENDORSED
A1: I am in support of local state-regulated cannabis dispensaries in Alexandria.
A2: I am in support of local state-regulated cannabis dispensaries in Alexandria.

✓ Kirk McPike (Member City Council)
A1: The positive health benefits of medical cannabis are clear. Wherever possible we should be seeking to improve access to healthcare options for patients including state regulated medical cannabis dispensaries.
A2: During the pandemic we saw local small businesses scale back or close entirely. This presents a risk that the tax revenues will increasingly fall to residents rather than being offset by businesses. I support the General Assembly’s efforts to create a regulated dispensary plan that will allow new businesses like this to thrive while working to rectify the damages caused by the failed war on drugs.


✓ Donnie T.A.M. Kern (Member Board of Supervisors)
A1: Cannabis is less lethal and detrimental on society than alcohol. The prohibition on Cannabis needs to end. The sale of it needs to begin which will bolster the economy as alcohol has done, and Cannabis being safer is a benefit to the entire community.
A2: To help maintain schools, local infrastructure, and create jobs the Cannabis industry can be the new means of accomplishing this.


✓ Susan G. Anderson (Member Town Council) ENDORSED
A1: I support locating a medical cannabis dispensary in Blacksburg. Patients need access to medication that is locally available at a reasonable cost.
A2: I support locating a state-regulated, adult-use cannabis dispensary in Blacksburg with restrictions. For example, dispensaries should not be in residential zoning districts and they should be carefully regulated to ensure only 21+ may purchase cannabis.


✓ Jon Russell (Mayor)
A1: If someone needs cannabis for a medical condition, government should not stand in the way.
A2: We are still waiting on guidance from the state on zoning & taxes.

✓ B. Travis Brown (Member City Council) 
A1: I fully believe all patients should have the right to reliable, unburdened access to their medications, whether that be traditional pharmaceuticals or cannabis-based. If a medical cannabis dispensary is financially viable, I do not believe it is the role of local government to block both the rights of patients to their medicine or a dispensary owner’s ability to sell medication that the commonwealth has deemed legal.
A2:I believe that local government should have to right to dictate whether a recreational dispensary is allowed to be built in their locality. I believe that placement of dispensaries is a zoning issue, much the same as placement of ABC stores. I support the proper placement/zoning of dispensaries within Culpeper.


✓ Daniel W. McGraw, Ed.D. (Member Town Council, Ashland)
A1: We need to reasonably find ways to alleviate the financial strain on jail and prison, while also finding ways to support the community. There is no student that I am aware of that identifies marijuana use as any different in terms of public safety as other controlled substances. Legalizing it will not be easy, but it is the right thing to do.
A2:​ Dispensaries need to be regulated to insure the safety of residents and children. Proper regulation of moving vehicles has proven to save lives and promote community. The same can happen with cannabis.


✓ John Koontz, Jr. (Member Board of Supervisors, Hartfield
A1: If approached, I would support locating a state-regulated medial cannabis dispensary in Middlesex County.
A2: If approached, I would support location of a state-regulated adult-use dispensary in Middlesex County.


✓ Phillip Hawkins, Jr. (Member City CouncilENDORSED
A1: I support our local city council to authorize providing state-regulated medical cannabis dispensaries in our locality in commercial spaces that are equitable and accessible to all citizens legally.
A2: State-regulated adult-use cannabis dispensaries should be available in our local city. These dispensaries should be located in commercial spaces in all areas in the City, not only in communities of color.

✓ Jason Inge (Member City Council, Superward 7)
A1: I would support a state run medical cannabis program. As long as the program allows for more business to be opened in hard to reach communities and decrease the high cost of license and participation. This will allow for better access for patients and increase participation from others to join the cannabis program.
A2: Yes, I would support adult use dispensaries in my community. I believe any adult over the 21 should be able to purchase and legally possess cannabis. I would support dispensaries in areas zoned for commercial business use. The revenue generated from sales would need to be given back to localities for reinvestment in the communities most harmed by enforcement.

✓ Danica Royster (Member City Council, Superward 7)
A1: I believe the location of a state-regulated medical cannabis dispensary would be beneficial for our community and would provide logical treatment options for people who are dealing with health conditions that would benefit from the use of cannabis. The key is oversight and regulation from state authorities and tax revenue sharing with local governments.
A2: I will fully support the implementation of a state-regulated dispensary or a number of dispensaries within the city limits of Norfolk. These facilities must have state and local oversight and regulation. There must be tax revenue sharing with local governments so there are monies for policing and community programs that may be needed as this developing industry takes hold in the Commonwealth. I believe we can work with cities like Denver and Portland, taking their key learnings and work to ensure we have a smooth, appropriate implementation of cannabis dispensaries in our state, region and city.


✓ R. Dalton Emershaw (Member City CouncilENDORSED
A1: I feel that medical marijuana dispensaries could have a positive effect on the City of Norton and Southwest Virginia as a whole. In this area medical marijuana is underutilized even though it could aid tremendously in the healing and pain management of many people with many conditions. Also, we currently have a huge problem with pills and other hard drugs and I think that access to medical marijuana is a good way to help combat this issue. If medical marijuana was easier to access and if doctors would prescribe it over highly addictive pain medication then the whole community would be positively impacted.
A2: First, I applaud our state legislators for making Virginia the first southern state to decriminalize marijuana. I feel that adult-use cannabis dispensaries could be a great asset to our community by allowing a safe place for people to buy a product that is less harmful than tobacco. Dispensaries would also add jobs and tax revenue that our city could definitely benefit from. Further, once the commercial cultivation of cannabis becomes legal our mountains would be the perfect place to grow it and it would be a good product to utilize the prospective agricultural land we have in Norton.


✓ Ed Brown (Member City Council, Special) ENDORSED
A1: There are medical necessities for medical cannabis. The fact that it would be state-regulated would provide the extra protection to prevent its abuse.
A2: There are many medical conditions which would be better addressed with the help of adult-use cannabis dispensaries. As an elected official I would want to do everything I can to help people improve their quality of life. So I would support them 100%.


Michael R. Dickinson (Sheriff)  


✓ Nick Ignacio (Member Board of Supervisors, Battlefield) ENDORSED
A1: It’s going to happen, let’s not waste time on this topic. We should have regulated dispensaries.
A2: We can have dispensaries.


✓ Monica Gary (Member Board of Supervisors, AquiaENDORSED
A1: The medical community befits of cannabis are proven and well documented. It is also a great alternative to other habit forming prescription medications presently on the market. I am hopeful for how the availability of medical cannabis could help curb the opioid epidemic.
A2: The known effects of cannabis are overall beneficial to individuals and communities, especially when compared with other legalized substances such as alcohol. Criminalization of cannabis has disproportionately and adversely effected communities of color as well. Legalization, proper regulation, and normalization of cannabis use is the right thing to do.

✓ Keith D. Jones (Member Board of Supervisors, HartwoodENDORSED
A1: I will support state-regulated medical cannabis dispensaries.
A2: I support state regulated adult use cannabis dispensaries



A survey was sent to all Commonwealth's Attorney candidates for the November 3 Election. Below is the grading scale used for based on their answers. 

Declining to Prosecute Low-level Marijuana Offenses

The prohibition of cannabis allows for the disproportionate criminalization of Black and Brown Virginians, despite similar rates of consumption across all races and ethnicities. The impacts of cannabis criminalization are far reaching and include long-lasting collateral consequences well beyond the criminal charge.

Q: Will your office support or oppose declining to prosecute low-level marijuana-related cases?



X Oppose




✓ Joe Platania ENDORSED
A: It is now legal


Matt Hamel
A: Hard and fast answers to questions like the previous one are always inappropriate because one size fits all positions and solutions rarely work well. To the extent that the General Assembly has given prosecutors the latitude to make decisions on a case-by-case basis, those who serve with me will have that ability.


✓ Ramin Fatehi ENDORSED
A: I am proud to be a longstanding supporter of the legalization and regulated sale of marijuana, and I have a demonstrated record of supporting those goals. In January of 2019, I was the author the Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney's Office's policy to dismiss all marijuana-possession cases that we encountered. When our policy went into effect, Norfolk's Circuit Court judges began to deny our motions to dismiss, and I was our Office's lawyer in the Virginia Supreme Court, where I filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to force our judges to grant our motions. The Supreme Court denied our petition, and I lobbied actively in the Virginia General Assembly for legalization, initially supporting decriminalization only on condition that it be a first step toward legalization. I am very happy that marijuana possession and use became legal this past July 1. Now we need to ensure that we expunge convictions for conduct that is no longer illegal, bring equity to the sentences that people are serving for marijuana distribution, and establish a legal market with equitable opportunities for people harmed by the "war on drugs." My Office and I will stand as allies to NORML and to any other organization with these goals.