Five Virginia Politicians Thwart the People and Democracy in Marijuana Reform Legislation

We the people elite.  A number of proposed bills to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana were put forth in the ongoing General Assembly session.  These bills were systematically killed in subcommittee by a tiny fraction of the General Assembly.  Generally speaking, five Republican Delegates decided that the proposed marijuana reform bills should not reach the full committee let alone the entirety of the General Assembly for a vote.  These five legislators know, or should have known, that the vast majority of Virginians (in poll after poll) favor the decriminalization of marijuana.

The will of the people be damned.  A relatively recent poll of Virginians found that an astonishing 76 percent favored the decriminalization of marijuana.  It’s hard to imagine any area of political debate today where more than three quarters of Virginians agree.  Yet five of our 100 House of Delegate members decided to actively resist the will of the people.

Drunk on their own egos.  The five delegates on the House Courts of Justice subcommittee who decided that their personal opinions trumped the full committee, the full house, the full General Assembly and the people of Virginia are …

C. Todd Gilbert (R-15), Robert B Bell (R-58), Les R Adams (R-16), Christopher Collins (R-29) and Margaret Ransone (R-99).

Collectively they represent approximately 400,000 Virginia citizens or just under 5% of the state’s population.  Their districts average 81.6% white whereas the state overall is 68.7% white.  4.5% of their constituents are Hispanic while 9% of Virginians are Hispanic.  In other words, five white Republicans representing disproportionately white, largely rural districts thwarted both democracy and the will of the people.  And folks wonder why the RPV is in terminal decay.

Republicans must lose this November.  Isolated pockets of “Hee Haw Republican politicians” are killing Virginia.  While these Republicans can’t be faulted for having their own traditional values they certainly can be faulted for foisting those values on the rest of the state.  The only answer is to root them out of the back rooms, dark cellars, dusty crawl spaces and anti-democratic subcommittees where they hide.  Unfortunately, a bad infestation of political cockroaches requires a full scale fumigation.  That is where we are in Virginia.  A complete Democratic takeover of the Virginia state legislature this November along with redistricting in 2021 will finally result in the removal of politicians like these from the majorities of subcommittees, committees and the General Assembly.  Perhaps after the rout this November a new breed of Republican politician will emerge.  A breed that respects democracy and the will of the people more than they love their own reflected images.

— Don Rippert

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19 responses to “Five Virginia Politicians Thwart the People and Democracy in Marijuana Reform Legislation

  1. And auto accidents will skyrocket with so many more drivers on the road high on cannabis. More people will also gravitate to hard drugs when marijuana no longer satisfies IMHO.

    • Well, my point was more about five rural Republicans speaking for the 140 members of the General Assembly than anything else but …

      I’ve always felt that alcohol is far more of gateway drug than marijuana will ever be. Stoned people may be a bit a bit off but drunk people make no sense whatsoever.

      Alcohol causes a whole lot of auto accidents (as well as liver damage, broken homes, etc). So do cell phones. Tobacco causes cancer. Yet both are legal in Virginia. In fact, Virginia has the second lowest state cigarette tax in America so we apparently don’t care too much about the cancer, etc. So long as Altria is happy …

      You either believe in broad, deep government intrusion into the personal decisions of the citizenry or you don’t. I don’t. However, if I did I would want alcohol and tobacco outlawed or, at least, taxed to the high heaven.

      Yet beyond all that … if 76% of Virginians favor something it should at least go to the full General Assembly for a vote.

  2. You are undoubtedly correct to say that the five politicians in question are out of step with the majority of Virginians when it comes to decriminalization of marijuana. But neither the United States, nor Virginia, is a “democracy.” We have a representative form of government. To say that the five delegates “thwart democracy” is way overblown. They were elected, and they are representing their constituents. The solution, as you suggest, is to vote them out of office.

    Also questionable: What difference does it make if their districts are 81.6% white? Does the whiteness of their constituents de-legitimize their views? Wow, Don, I expect that from Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders, not from you.

    • There is nothing representative in 5% of the House of Delegates deciding to kill legislation favored by 76% of Virginians, Comrade. I know that the long running Tory mentality of the Richmond elite has always favored small cabals of our centralized political betters making the all decisions for the electorate but the times, they are a changin’.

      As for the demographics … there is nothing representative about those five egomaniacs. They are lily white politicians from lily white rural districts preventing our representative form of government from executing. They don’t represent me and they don’t represent the vast majority of Virginians either.

      I would have been fine of they said they would vote for the measure in subcommittee yet vote against it in the full house. I thought these subcommittees and committees were supposed to bypass frivolous legislation … not thwart representative government.

    • In some ways, I agree with Jim. These delegates should not be blamed for voting their consciences or representing their constituents.

      The real problem lies in the House committee system. In years past, subcommittees existed to vet bills and tidy them up with amendments, if needed, and work out compromises between affected parties, particularly with complex issues for which there was not enough time in the full committee to do so. But they could not kill bills. The subcommittees always reported the bills back to the full committee with their recommendations–whether those recommendations were to report, kill, amend, or a substitute bill. The full committee had the final say as to whether the bill would be reported to the full House.

      At some point (I can’t remember when) under William Howell as Speaker, the rules were changed. Subcommittees were given the power to kill a bill. If a subcommittee voted to not recommend a bill, it stayed in subcommittee unless the chairman of the full committee wanted to bring it to the full committee. All this was done in the name of efficiency. And, it is true that the House was able to clear its dockets much quicker than it had in the past. Instead of a mad rush at the deadline for considering bills and all-night sessions, they often now finish in the early afternoon of the final day.

      However, the other result (and probably the real intention) has been that five delegates can control what the full committee will consider. And subcommittee memberships have been stacked to make sure that bills that the party leaders do not want to get to the floor never get beyond the subcommittee. In that manner, they can protect their broader membership from politically dangerous votes. One of the subcommittees of the Committee on Militia, Police, and Public Safety has long been the place where gun control bills go to die, for example.

      • “At some point (I can’t remember when) under William Howell as Speaker, the rules were changed. Subcommittees were given the power to kill a bill.”

        Ahhh … William Howell. Republican. Recognized that the RPV were the inheritors of the Byrd Machine philosophy and pulled every dirty trick in the book to deny Virginians a truly representative form of government. From the use of Republican fruit flies in subcommittee to kills bills to the ridiculous gerrymandered redistricting after the 2010 census.

        Howell is emblematic of what’s wrong with the Republican Party of Virginia.

        “In that manner, they can protect their broader membership from politically dangerous votes.”

        In other words, they are cowards protecting cowards. I agree.

  3. I concur with John Harvie and Jim Bacon. Indeed, I believe these five delegates are profiles in courage, men of the highest principle who know that the last thing this nation needs are more Potheads. And more Potheads addicting their our children, and the children of others. This is Federalism at its very Best, with legislators who are acting in the highest traditions of nation, from Lincoln on down. What is our nation’s greatest plague today? Gutless, and opportunist leaders, without principle. We got far t00 many leaders with no principles and who run with the herd and its very worst instincts, including the addiction of its own constituents, right over the cliff.

    • Where in my article did I even once support the bill in question? I described how five fringe Republican politicians in a subcommittee subverted representative government, democracy and the will of the people. How has the political process been helped by five fringe Republicans denying the full committee and the full house and the full General Assembly the right to represent the people who elected them? 95% of Virginia voters didn’t vote for (or against) a single one of those politicians.

      As for decriminalization of marijuana … I’m afraid you’ll have to get over that around this time next year. While I certainly grant you your opinion I hope you can grant the 76% of Virginians who favor decriminalization their opinions.

      I’m also wondering if you are in favor of outlawing alcohol and tobacco. Both are ghastly products the purveyors and enablers of which have been “… addicting their our children (sic), and the children of others” for centuries.

      Either you believe in broad and deep government intrusion into the personal lives of citizens (in which case you should be clamoring for prohibitions on alcohol and tobacco) or you don’t. I don’t. So I accept that people will misuse some legal products – from handguns to Virginia Slims. However, if I ever change my mind on that I’ll start with a demand to at least quintuple the taxes on cigarettes in Virginia. Anything else would be inconsistent and illogical.

  4. Things might be different if we had the right of citizens to initiate referenda in Virginia.

    In a nation where idiots play with their cell-phones in horrendous numbers that add to the folks swilling alcohol and high on opioids and fentynl… I wonder about marijuana – it’s not like it’s not already in use… so until
    I see some stats that make it a sore thumb that stands out compared to these
    other driving sins… I’m just thinking it’s more old white guys culture bias than real objective criteria.

    I’ve seen so many people screwing around with their cell phones these days – it’s a downright epidemic and it very much is maiming and killing folks.

    You can’t stop people from doing it – just like drinking alcohol or smoking a joint – but I’d be curious to see some comparative stats.

  5. I’ll make you a deal,,,, I don’t have to pay for the health care for
    Fat People
    Drug users
    Feel free to add to the list of stupid bad habits
    And you can have your Pot!!!

    • As a non-smoking fitness freak who drinks occasionally and doesn’t use drugs I guess I’d agree. However, you do pay for the health care of fat people, smokers, drinkers, people who text while driving, middle aged men who play rugby and on and on. Why are all these vices and risky behavior OK with you? In particular, tobacco is deadly when used as intended. Where is your insistence on tobacco being illegal? Where is your loud frustration at the taxes on tobacco being the second lowest of any state in Virginia? Where are those five fringe Republican Delegates insisting on sufficient taxes on tobacco to pay for the health consequences of that horrific drug? I’ll tell you where they are … counting their Altria money.

  6. What health care does BESIDES treat these self-induced health issues – it can and does HELP them to lose weight, quit smoking, stop using drugs, etc.

    When our approach is to deny them health care – that could and does help them to reduce unhealthy habits – we actually increase costs to us because ultimately they get treated and the ones without insurance, we pay for anyhow.

    The way we are dealing with cell phones is the way we should deal with pot in mv view and that is if you are in an accident and the officer suspects you are being impaired or using your cell phone – he will take your phone and dump it and have you go get a blood test. If it turns out you were guilty then make you pay. If you hurt others or their property -they will come after you also.

    If we do this and publicize it , most folks with half a brain with take driving seriously and behave and the rest we have to deal with anyhow, whether it is alcohol, pot or screwing around with their cell phones.

  7. DJ, the use of subcommittees to dispatch legislation to prevent wider consideration is a legacy of the recent years of House GOP control. It draws wide and often deserved condemnation, but common practice under the Democrats years ago was bills never got heard at all. Chairmen would smile at patrons and advocats and say, we’ll let you know if it comes up. Bills went into coat pockets or desk drawers.

    The corrective mechanism is called an election and the big broom is visible on the horizon. I agree, maintaining the criminal penalty for simple possession is unsustainable, but what you fail to note (intentionally) is that many Republicans agree and have introduced those bills you cite. Be sure to obtain rock solid pledges from all the Democrats to change the rule on subcommittees killing bills, because my experience is the bad ideas spread across party lines.

    • Granted, I was not privy to a many controversial bills, Steve, but it did not seem to me that it was widespread practice for the Democrats to allow bills to just disappear in committeess. The only exception was Sen. Willey, who would occasionally assign a bill to the nonexistent Revenue Subcommittee.

      I hope you are wrong, but afraid that you may be right, about the Democrats continuing this authority for subcommittees to kill bills, if or when they obtain the majority.

  8. The five Delegates who killed the bills in subcommittee are all rural Republicans. Maybe the Democrats who will inherit the GA after the November elections will do no better. Or … maybe they will do better. The only thing I know for sure is that the Republicans were given the chance to behave properly and they failed.

    While I remain a Republican at the national level I no longer view Virginia Republicans as anything but big government advocates who are only too happy to see Virginia wallow in high taxes so long as there remains a massive wealth transfer from urban and suburban Virginia to their rural welfare districts. They espouse self-sufficiency and individual freedom along with a need to reduce regulation until those freedoms and that regulation offends their personal morality. When that happens they happily ditch their phony freedom talk and move on to heavy handed government intrusion into the personal lives of Virginians. They are philosophically bankrupt and every bit as much socialists as the Virginia Democrats, maybe even more socialist.

    All freedom loving Virginians should celebrate the upcoming demise of the RPV. Maybe the Democrats will do no better but at least there’s a chance for better times ahead.

  9. Well, it sure will be a target-rich environment for the likes of me!

  10. DJR, you are right. At least Virginia hasn’t gone the harebrained way of the feds with those obscene matching contributions, as far as I know.

  11. Pingback: Illinois about to legalize recreational pot use; implications for Virginia - Bacon's Rebellion

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