A GOP congressman representing Virginia is urging the state’s governor to reject a bill to legalize marijuana that was sent to his desk last month.
Freshman Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) argued that legalization is the wrong move, in part because he subscribes to the theory that cannabis is a “gateway” to other drugs and believes that federal law accurately classifies marijuana as a strictly controlled substance.
“I write to you today to express my strong opposition to legalizing marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he wrote to Gov. Ralph Northam (D), specifically citing the measure that was recently approved by the state House and Senate. “This legislation would undermine the rule of law. ”
Good argued in the Thursday letter that “if marijuana is legalized, those who have been profiting from its sale in the current illegal drug trade will undoubtedly refocus and intensify their efforts in the sale and distribution of more dangerous drugs, as has happened in other states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use,” and this “is assuredly why a large majority of states have still not moved to legalize marijuana.”
“Not only would efforts to legalize marijuana undermine the rule of law and federal law enforcement, it is also harmful to families. Legalizing recreational use of marijuana, even if limited to adults, will likely expose more children to drug use at young impressionable ages. Marijuana is often the ‘gateway’ drug, and its legalization will increase experimentation with it and other drugs. Surely, we can all agree that facilitating more Virginians trying and using addictive, behavior-altering, recreational drugs is not good for individuals or the Commonwealth as a whole.”
The congressman—who previously raised controversy as a local policymaker by supporting resolutions declaring the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage to be unlawful and urging the restriction of transgender people’s access to public bathrooms—went on to say that taxing and regulating cannabis sales “is not a sound policy for generating revenue,” citing data from the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches To Marijuana.
Read the letter here: https://t.co/sRzWf0ENcQ
— SAM (@learnaboutsam) March 5, 2021
“Virginia should not undermine the rule of law, contribute to more Virginians using recreational drugs, place further unnecessary strain on families who want their children to grow up in a drug free environment, or enter a new business venture for which the many negative consequences far outweigh any potential positive revenue for the Commonwealth,” the congressman concluded.
Of course, while Good may be able to cast his vote in favor of maintaining the status quo of federally prohibiting cannabis in Congress, he doesn’t dictate state policy. And it’s difficult to imagine that Northam would veto a reform proposal that he, alongside top legislative leaders, introduced in January.
The Senate and House of Delegates approved differing legalization proposals earlier this month, and negotiators have since worked to reconcile the bills in conference committee—a contentious process that at times appeared as if it would end without a deal. Late last month, a bicameral compromise plan was reached and the reform legislation was sent to the governor.
Advocates have urged Northam to exercise his ability to send suggested amendments back to lawmakers, including moving up the timeline for implementing the legalization of possession and home cultivation, which are currently set to take effect in 2024 alongside legal cannabis sales.
In general, the cannabis legislation’s structure was informed by separate studies conducted by a legislative research body and a working group made up of state cabinet officials.
Support for legalizing marijuana is strong in Virginia, according to a poll released this month. It found that a majority of adults in the Commonwealth (68 percent) favor adult-use legalization, and that includes most Republicans (51 percent).
The legislature has also taken up a number of other more modest cannabis reform proposals this session.
Bills to allow medical patients to access whole-flower cannabis in addition to oils, facilitate automatic expungements for certain marijuana convictions, protect employment rights of medical cannabis patients and allow those in hospice and nursing facilities to access medical marijuana have also advanced.
Virginia lawmakers passed separate legislation last year that decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, replacing existing penalties with a $25 civil fine and no threat of jail time. The law took effect last July.