Image by JR Byron from Pixabay

by D.J. Rippert

Slow burn. The General Assembly passed marijuana legislation and sent it to the governor to sign. However, almost nobody seems satisfied with the bill as it is written. Now Governor Ralph Northam must decide whether to sign the bill, veto the bill, or ask for the bill to be amended. As he ponders his next move, he is getting a lot of advice from different directions.

While there are many issues with the proposed legislation, the timeline for recreational legalization of possession is arguably the biggest problem. The legislation, as written, would legalize recreational marijuana possession and sale in 2024. Yes, more than three full years from now. That doesn’t sit well with a lot of people including Democratic State Senator Louise Lucas, who wrote on social media, “Kicking the can down the road has the effect of continued over policing people of color.” Sen Lucas would like to see marijuana legalized on July 1, 2021.

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. It will take considerably longer than three-and-one-half months to set up a properly regulated recreational marijuana sales operation. Under Sen. Lucas’ request it would be legal to posses marijuana in Virginia but there would be no legal place to buy the weed. Therefore, the sale would have been done illegally even though the possession of the marijuana would be legal. Lucas cites the reality of disproportionate enforcement of Virginia’s marijuana laws against people of color as a reason to legalize possession (of a relatively small amount of pot) well ahead of opening legal dispensaries in the state. Others disagree. Opponents to 2021 legalization  see legalized possession in a state where there are no legal dispensaries as a catalyst for increased black market activity. As WTOP noted, “The Virginia Senate had sought to legalize simple possession this year to immediately end punishments for people with small amounts of marijuana, but House Democrats argued that legalization without a legal market for marijuana could promote the growth of the black market.”

Now, On my right …  Some Republicans in the state want Northam to refuse to sign the bill at all. Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Good sent Northam a letter on U.S. House of Representatives’ stationary expressing his “strong opposition to legalizing marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia.” One of Rep Good’s concerns is that legalizing marijuana undermines the rule of law since pot is still a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act. Perhaps Rep Good should travel more. One in three Americans now live in states where recreational marijuana is legal.  President Trump had four years to enforce federal law but (wisely, in my opinion) decided not to do so. Why is “the rule of law” now a major issue? In fairness, Rep Good has other, better reasons for opposition such the possibility of increased use by teens and car crashes caused by stoned drivers.

Other flaws. I had the chance to speak with Ms. Valerie Slater, executive director of Richmond-based RISE for Youth about the proposed legislation. From their website, “RISE for Youth is a nonpartisan organization committed to dismantling the youth prison model and ensuring every space that impacts a young person’s life encourages growth and success.” My conversation with Ms. Slater was a constructive, far ranging critique of the juvenile justice system in Virginia that I will describe in a dedicated later post. However, she and her organization specifically oppose the bill’s inclusion of a delinquency charge for juveniles found in possession of marijuana. Ms. Slater was very clear that she does not want underage Virginians possessing marijuana but favored sending children found in possession to evaluation for appropriate services rather than processed through the criminal system. Moreover, she felt the bill’s requirement that possession on school property be a class 2 misdemeanor needed to be removed. RISE for Youth sees that punishment as too harsh and will again result in disproportionate enforcement against children of color.

My take. First, a Christopher Newport poll from Feb, 2021 found that 68% of Virginia voters favor “the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults.” Let’s move on from the question of “if” and focus on the question of “when.” The question of legalizing recreational use marijuana was studied for a full year ahead of the 2021 General Assembly session. Now it will take over three years to establish the infrastructure required for legal sales  C’mon man. A three- toed sloth moves faster than that. There’s a lot of tax money being lost while Virginia dawdles.

Decriminalization did not solve the equity issue. Blacks and whites use marijuana at approximately the same per-capita rates. However, since marijuana was decriminalized in Virginia (July 2020) black Virginians made up 52% of all possession charges despite accounting for roughly 20% of the population. I don’t care if these are “add on” charges or not — it’s just not fair. D.C. has been living in the netherworld of legal marijuana without legal dispensaries for years (compliments of Republicans in Congress). The District hasn’t slipped into chaos and neither will Virginia. Northam should demand legalization on July 1, 2021. It’s time to end the racial disparities that seem to always come with the enforcement of marijuana laws, even after decriminalization.

As for what should be done with children found in possession of marijuana, I’m no expert. However, I’m going to side with Valerie Slater and RISE for Youth. I see marijuana possession by youth as about the same as possessing beer. Neither are appropriate. However, I can’t imagine putting a child into the criminal justice system for having a beer in her backpack at school anymore than I can the same for possession of a joint. The kids need counseling not a criminal record.


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57 responses to “Northam Gets an Earful on Marijuana Legalization Bill”

  1. vicnicholls Avatar
    vicnicholls

    “Democratic State Senator Louise Lucas who wrote on social media,
    “Kicking the can down the road has the effect of continued over policing
    people of color.””

    That woman has no right to talk after decades long history from refusing to help out “Pete” in the Shipyard to Clinton Jenkins. That man also doesn’t listen to his own brothers/sisters.

    Maybe she should learn how the laws work and fix them BEFORE she opens her mouth. Sort of like the statue issue and this law issue, she could have put forth a bill but didn’t.

    1. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      I’m not a big fan of hers either but she pretty clearly expressed an opinion that’s widely held. The enforcement of marijuana laws in Virginia has been clearly disproportionate against African-Americans. Unfortunately, even after decriminalization the enforcement is still disproportionate. Unless something changes in the way enforcement is carried out (which seems unlikely) … then a 3 year delay in legalization means three more years of disproportionate enforcement.

      Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    2. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      I’m not a big fan of hers either but she pretty clearly expressed an opinion that’s widely held. The enforcement of marijuana laws in Virginia has been clearly disproportionate against African-Americans. Unfortunately, even after decriminalization the enforcement is still disproportionate. Unless something changes in the way enforcement is carried out (which seems unlikely) … then a 3 year delay in legalization means three more years of disproportionate enforcement.

      Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        Bottom Line – the GOP could care less if the law was “disproportionate”… it’s all about “rule of law”…

        1. DJRippert Avatar
          DJRippert

          I don’t know about the GOP but Rep Bob Good feels that way.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        Bottom Line – the GOP could care less if the law was “disproportionate”… it’s all about “rule of law”…

  2. vicnicholls Avatar
    vicnicholls

    “Democratic State Senator Louise Lucas who wrote on social media,
    “Kicking the can down the road has the effect of continued over policing
    people of color.””

    That woman has no right to talk after decades long history from refusing to help out “Pete” in the Shipyard to Clinton Jenkins. That man also doesn’t listen to his own brothers/sisters.

    Maybe she should learn how the laws work and fix them BEFORE she opens her mouth. Sort of like the statue issue and this law issue, she could have put forth a bill but didn’t.

  3. vicnicholls Avatar
    vicnicholls

    “Democratic State Senator Louise Lucas who wrote on social media,
    “Kicking the can down the road has the effect of continued over policing
    people of color.””

    That woman has no right to talk after decades long history from refusing to help out “Pete” in the Shipyard to Clinton Jenkins. That man also doesn’t listen to his own brothers/sisters.

    Maybe she should learn how the laws work and fix them BEFORE she opens her mouth. Sort of like the statue issue and this law issue, she could have put forth a bill but didn’t.

  4. energyNOW_Fan Avatar
    energyNOW_Fan

    I agree 2024 seems a bit too far out. But what is the logic of that? How about compromise July 2022?

    1. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      There are two issues. The first is legalizing possession. The second is legalizing the sale of marijuana. The first is easy. Change one byte in the bill from 202″4″ to 202″1″ and voila, possession is legal. It’s a bit of Alice in Wonderland. You can legally posses marijuana but you can’t legally buy it. Presumably you’d be able to grow your own although I don’t know how you’d legally buy the seeds. However, that would immediately end the disproportionate enforcement of possession laws. For people, like Sen Lucas, who see the racial dimension as a top priority, there is no reason to compromise. Just make possession legal. After that, the dispensaries come online when they come online. So, while I’d really like to see the dispensary schedule accelerated I’d also like to see possession legalized as of July 1, 2021.

      Now, legalizing possession in 2021 and opening the first dispensaries in 2022 would be great in my opinion.

    2. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      There are two issues. The first is legalizing possession. The second is legalizing the sale of marijuana. The first is easy. Change one byte in the bill from 202″4″ to 202″1″ and voila, possession is legal. It’s a bit of Alice in Wonderland. You can legally posses marijuana but you can’t legally buy it. Presumably you’d be able to grow your own although I don’t know how you’d legally buy the seeds. However, that would immediately end the disproportionate enforcement of possession laws. For people, like Sen Lucas, who see the racial dimension as a top priority, there is no reason to compromise. Just make possession legal. After that, the dispensaries come online when they come online. So, while I’d really like to see the dispensary schedule accelerated I’d also like to see possession legalized as of July 1, 2021.

      Now, legalizing possession in 2021 and opening the first dispensaries in 2022 would be great in my opinion.

  5. energyNOW_Fan Avatar
    energyNOW_Fan

    I agree 2024 seems a bit too far out. But what is the logic of that? How about compromise July 2022?

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    The black market will gain strength no matter the date. Government sanctioned, taxed, and regulated pot will never be able to compete with the black market, which has the flexibility to always sell below dear ole Virginny’s price. At the government sanctioned pot stores you can’t touch the weed, you can’t sample the weed, but you do have to pay the taxed mark up. The new black market doesn’t have to play by these rules. Is this good or bad? Depends on your viewpoint or if you are a consumer of the product. One thing is for sure. Many jobs out there require a pee test and there will be a long line of folks who disqualify themselves from good paying jobs. I have very mixed feelings about all of this.
    https://www.app.com/story/news/local/new-jersey/marijuana/2021/03/01/nj-marijuana-legalization-legal-weed-weedman-phil-murphy-nj-green-direct/4297585001/

    1. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      There is still a black market fo alcohol I guess. I watch “Moonshiners” and see Tickle is from Virginia. He’s done a couple of stretches for his chosen occupation. I’m not sure that moonshining is all that large an industry but it does exist. Somebody will grow black market weed but it’s 100% black market now and a lot of people who buy on the black market today will just go to a dispensary in the future. The black market will shrink.

      As for pee testing – that’s hard to justify if it’s legal. Nobody tests you for consumption of alcohol as a pre-requisite for hiring. Testing for marijuana will end too.

      Look at the NBA …

      https://www.marijuanamoment.net/nba-players-wont-be-tested-for-marijuana-next-year-as-league-weighs-permanent-change/

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        Good posting Mr. DJ. Survey says that black market is going to get bigger and stronger. If Senator Lucas wants racial justice on this front she is going to have to advocate for decriminalizing the black market too. Everybody thinks it will be so easy to just flip the switch to green light legal. The black market will thrive because big money is on the table and greed usually wins. The pee testing is going to be tough to do away with. Which insurance company is going to cover a delivery service, Trailways, heavy construction, and so on without the pee test? This is proving to be much more complicated than rolling a zig zag. Our friends on Capitol Square are not as smart as they think they are. But here it comes Mr. DJ. Hope it works out.
        https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/07/31/marijuana-black-market/507417001/

      2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        I stopped watching the NBA when Dr. J retired. Can you remember when the Virginia Squires played with a front court of Julius Erving, George “Iceman” Gervin, and Charlie Scott? One of the great ABA teams. They played their home games in Richmond, Hampton, Norfolk, and Roanoke.
        https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-SBFotujFyuQ/Te8ef3bDXtI/AAAAAAAABFI/6BN5ccPvTXg/s320/DrJAuto.jpg

        1. DJRippert Avatar
          DJRippert

          Why did professional basketball ever stop using those red, white and blue balls? Dr J was great. I miss the Squires. First and last major league sports franchise in Virginia I think.

    2. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      There is still a black market fo alcohol I guess. I watch “Moonshiners” and see Tickle is from Virginia. He’s done a couple of stretches for his chosen occupation. I’m not sure that moonshining is all that large an industry but it does exist. Somebody will grow black market weed but it’s 100% black market now and a lot of people who buy on the black market today will just go to a dispensary in the future. The black market will shrink.

      As for pee testing – that’s hard to justify if it’s legal. Nobody tests you for consumption of alcohol as a pre-requisite for hiring. Testing for marijuana will end too.

      Look at the NBA …

      https://www.marijuanamoment.net/nba-players-wont-be-tested-for-marijuana-next-year-as-league-weighs-permanent-change/

    3. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Was a time it was illegal to distill for personal use

      1. Matt Hurt Avatar
        Matt Hurt

        Still is.

      2. Matt Hurt Avatar
        Matt Hurt

        Still is.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar
          LarrytheG

          but beer OK…how about wine?

        2. LarrytheG Avatar
          LarrytheG

          but beer OK…how about wine?

        3. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Oh dear. I guess I’ll just drink my Jamaican Ginger.

        4. DJRippert Avatar
          DJRippert

          I thought it was allowed to a certain level in gallons per year.

          1. Matt Hurt Avatar
            Matt Hurt

            There is an allowable limit of private production of beer and wine, but distilled spirits are another matter entirely. The feds tax every ounce, and there’s no “private use” provision. All this goes back to the old days when corn was a cash crop only when it was distilled.

            https://www.ttb.gov/distilled-spirits/penalties-for-illegal-distilling#:~:text=TTB%20Glossary-,Home%20Distilling,26%20United%20States%20Code%20(U.S.C.)

          2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            Before Woodrow Wilson’s Federal Income tax 50% of US tax revenue came from the alcohol tax. The other half came from tariffs. Wilson was so clever. A teetotaler. Enlist the anti saloon women of America to push for prohibition and the end of the alcohol tax in exchange for suffrage. Adopt a free trade position that dramatically curtailed tariffs. And replace federal revenue with the income tax and build a Federal Reserve. I find it ironic that the left wants to tear down this man.

          3. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            The key word is “distill”. Make your applejack, or wine and put it in a plastic jug, and then in the freezer. Check it often. After it starts freezing, punch a hole in the bottom, drain into another jug, put that one in the freezer, throw the first away, repeat.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar
            LarrytheG

            Bacon’s Rebellion vs. the Whiskey Rebellion:

            https://prezi.com/l8lcyzqxhdek/bacons-rebellion-vs-the-whiskey-rebellion/

          5. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Goes back to the Whiskey Rebellion days, which is how moonshine became moonshine.

          6. DJRippert Avatar
            DJRippert

            First and only time that a sitting president of the United Stated commanded an army in the field. The incomparable General Washington rode to Pennsylvania in command of an army, told the bootleggers to pay their tax, pardoned everybody and went home to thunderous applause.

    4. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Was a time it was illegal to distill for personal use

  7. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    The black market will gain strength no matter the date. Government sanctioned, taxed, and regulated pot will never be able to compete with the black market, which has the flexibility to always sell below dear ole Virginny’s price. At the government sanctioned pot stores you can’t touch the weed, you can’t sample the weed, but you do have to pay the taxed mark up. The new black market doesn’t have to play by these rules. Is this good or bad? Depends on your viewpoint or if you are a consumer of the product. One thing is for sure. Many jobs out there require a pee test and there will be a long line of folks who disqualify themselves from good paying jobs. I have very mixed feelings about all of this.
    https://www.app.com/story/news/local/new-jersey/marijuana/2021/03/01/nj-marijuana-legalization-legal-weed-weedman-phil-murphy-nj-green-direct/4297585001/

  8. LarrytheG Avatar
    LarrytheG

    Bottom Lines – if the GOP were in control, you’d get BUPTKIS !

    1. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      No doubt about that. The votes were along party lines with an odd holdout – Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) voted against the bill.

      In the Christopher Newport poll a majority of Virginia voters who identified themselves as Republican favored legalization of recreational weed.

      Once again the Republicans are dancing several notes behind the music.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        Big difference between GOP voters and GOP elected.

        1. DJRippert Avatar
          DJRippert

          I actually think it’s more geographic. There are plenty of Republicans in NoVa but not sufficiently concentrated in any one area to get a Republican elected. Downstate there are areas with high Republican concentrations. I’m guessing that the urban and suburban Republican voters more strongly favor legalization. So, those Republicans have no voice since they are represented by Democrats. Anyway, just my guess.

      2. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        Big difference between GOP voters and GOP elected.

      3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        Not surprised about Mr. Petersen. Being the son of old fashioned school teachers might be part of his stance

        1. DJRippert Avatar
          DJRippert

          I disagree with him on this vote but he’s the Virginia state politician I respect the most. One reason? He’s willing o break from the pack and vote his conscience.

          1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            You have won me over on Chap. Dead on right. I used to wear bow ties to school when I had enough time in the morning to work one in.

    2. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      No doubt about that. The votes were along party lines with an odd holdout – Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) voted against the bill.

      In the Christopher Newport poll a majority of Virginia voters who identified themselves as Republican favored legalization of recreational weed.

      Once again the Republicans are dancing several notes behind the music.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar
    LarrytheG

    Bottom Lines – if the GOP were in control, you’d get BUPTKIS !

  10. ….and yet no one has talked to employers. Want a job in the USG with a clearance? NOPE. Want a job in law enforcement? NOPE. Maybe we should ask if employers will be changing their requirements to accommodate this law ? Or will these kids only be working minimum wage jobs because of years of use of the wacky weed?

  11. ….and yet no one has talked to employers. Want a job in the USG with a clearance? NOPE. Want a job in law enforcement? NOPE. Maybe we should ask if employers will be changing their requirements to accommodate this law ? Or will these kids only be working minimum wage jobs because of years of use of the wacky weed?

    1. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      Oh dear, here we go. First and foremost – there’s plenty of weed available despite it being illegal. Anybody who wants some can get some. I have five sons. The first four are adults. I asked each one of them whether it was easier in high school to get illegal weed or illegal alcohol. My only stipulation was that you couldn’t just steal the booze from your parents. All four were clear – illegal weed was easier to get. Second, if weed is legal then how the hell would that disqualify you from a job in law enforcement? Ae cops forbidden to drink beer? The federal law doesn’t survive the end of the Biden Administration (2024). It’s over. Weed will be no more controversial than drinking Miller Light in five years.

      The choice will be yours. If you don’t want to drink alcohol then don’t. If you don’t want to smoke pot, then don’t. If you don’t want to sleep with someone who is your same sex, then don’t.

      But please don’t tell me that you are a freedom loving Republican who believes in small government and limited regulation but possessing a plant should be a Schedule I drug offense. Please don’t tell me that.

      It’s a plant for God’s sake.

    2. DJRippert Avatar
      DJRippert

      Oh dear, here we go. First and foremost – there’s plenty of weed available despite it being illegal. Anybody who wants some can get some. I have five sons. The first four are adults. I asked each one of them whether it was easier in high school to get illegal weed or illegal alcohol. My only stipulation was that you couldn’t just steal the booze from your parents. All four were clear – illegal weed was easier to get. Second, if weed is legal then how the hell would that disqualify you from a job in law enforcement? Ae cops forbidden to drink beer? The federal law doesn’t survive the end of the Biden Administration (2024). It’s over. Weed will be no more controversial than drinking Miller Light in five years.

      The choice will be yours. If you don’t want to drink alcohol then don’t. If you don’t want to smoke pot, then don’t. If you don’t want to sleep with someone who is your same sex, then don’t.

      But please don’t tell me that you are a freedom loving Republican who believes in small government and limited regulation but possessing a plant should be a Schedule I drug offense. Please don’t tell me that.

      It’s a plant for God’s sake.

  12. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    I’m anxiously awaiting the legalization of heroin.
    The country could use a population control program and that may be the easiest to implement.
    I guess we should be sure to build a few orphanages prior to legalization.

    1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      Legalized heroin —-> opioids…

      1. LarrytheG Avatar
        LarrytheG

        and more. Rich guys drugs and poor guys drugs

      2. DJRippert Avatar
        DJRippert

        Pretty much except heroin is much cheaper and easier to obtain (nowadays). Hence, the common migration from opioids to actual heroin.

      3. DJRippert Avatar
        DJRippert

        Pretty much except heroin is much cheaper and easier to obtain (nowadays). Hence, the common migration from opioids to actual heroin.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar
      LarrytheG

      One of the most promising new ways to control population and actually to target the Darwins is cell phone texting while driving…..works even better when it’s operator of a train or other mass transit vehicle.

  13. LarrytheG Avatar
    LarrytheG

    So for liquor sold at state stores (in Va) and “bootleg” – how come there is not a significant bootleg market that undercuts the marked-up state price?

    Why would that also not happen to weed?

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