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Don’t Be Fooled – Virginia Won’t Be Following In D.C.’s Footsteps Anytime Soon

By Kyle Meagher

As someone who grew up a mile away from the District of Columbia and across from the CIA, seeing our Nation’s Capital legalize marijuana this week gave me a true sense of hometown pride.

The people spoke and their local government supported them. Beautiful. And then a harsh reality kicked in.

My actual home state is Virginia, not D.C. And in Virginia, things are different.

Way different.

This week, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe finalized Virginia’s newest medical marijuana law, allowing those with severe forms of epilepsy freedom from prosecution for use of cannabidiols (CBD).

Reading this, you may think that Virginia is moving in the right direction. However, this is hardly a step towards legalization, decriminalization or even a real medical marijuana policy, and no one should believe otherwise.

In the District of Columbia, there is a Mayor by the name of Muriel Bowser who is taking on Congress in order to represent her people’s interests.

In Maryland, Senate Bill 364 decriminalized possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis in October, and it has strong support from State Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Curt Anderson, just to name just a few.

By contrast, the DMV’s (the District, Maryland & Virginia) third representative, Virginia, continues to have some of the harshest marijuana policies in the country and are making a point that the state does not plan on creating an extensive medical marijuana law any time soon.

In response to Virginia’s newest CBD law, Del. C Todd Gilbert told The Washington Post that the state is “not even close to legalizing medical marijuana,” while calling California’s medical use system a “disaster.”

He added: “My knee-jerk reaction was absolutely that it was a veiled attempt to get us to medical marijuana or decriminalization. But nothing could be further from the truth.”

This is a big problem that will likely remain a reality for quite some time.

Christopher Newport University recently released a poll of registered Virginia voters in late January. The survey found that 71 percent of participants supported decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, and 69 percent support legalizing medical marijuana.

Just four days later, the Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee shot down a bill that would have decriminalized marijuana possession by a 9 to 5 vote.

It’s baffling, really.

Instead of gearing up to enforce something that seven out of 10 Virginians support, Virginia law enforcement must prepare for the potential of increased arrests stemming from crossover from D.C., because as Major Jerry Stokes of Lynchburg said, “Possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal in Virginia.”

To Gov. McAuliffe’s credit, he has publically supported medical marijuana. However, he does not think Virginia as a state is there yet, and he certainly will not be the one opening the topic up for discussion.

Until something changes, Virginia will remain lumped in with the rest of the states that resist a modern approach to marijuana and continue to live by Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” approach.

It’s not black and white, and with the research that exists and the movement that is pushing forward nationwide, it’s time for Virginia to leave the dark ages of prohibition and support their people on this.

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