Virginia’s attorney general indicated on Tuesday that one goal of a marijuana reform summit he’s hosting next week is to provide the governor with information he needs to get behind cannabis legalization.
Attorney General Mark Herring said that with new Democratic legislative majorities elected in November’s elections, the state is well positioned to advance cannabis reform that has stalled under the current General Assembly. That’s why he’s organizing an event to answer questions about the policies and set lawmakers up to pass decriminalization legislation as well as develop a plan to more broadly legalize marijuana for adult use.
But a question has remained as to whether legalization will get the support of Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who campaigned on the more incremental move of decriminalizing possession and talked about the issue in his State of the Commonwealth address this year but has not explicitly backed broader reform.
“Based on my conversations, he supports decriminalization,” the attorney general told Cheddar in response to a question about the governor’s cannabis stance. “Like a lot of people, I think they’d like to get more information about what legalization and what regulated, adult-use would look like.”
“Criminalizing marijuana possession is not working.” Attorney General @MarkHerringVA said he will host a #cannabis summit to advance decriminalization in Virginia. #CheddarLive pic.twitter.com/ecB4BSQo5w
— Cheddar (@cheddar) December 3, 2019
“There are some big questions out there about what Virginia needs to settle for itself,” Herring, who is running for governor himself in 2021, said. “Other states have talked about it, came to a consensus in their states about how to respond to that and do it—I think that’s something that we need to have that conversation in Virginia now and give lawmakers, policymakers, including the governor, more information, more tools.”
According to an invitation for Herring’s event, which is set to take place on December 11, the summit is “designed to better inform those discussions and offer perspectives from states that have implemented similar changes at the state level.”
Besides decriminalization and legalization, the event will also feature panels centered on CBD and hemp regulations, as well as social equity.
“I hope to give lawmakers more information, to get their questions, address any concern they might have,” Herring said. “I’m bringing experts in. I’m bringing folks from other states that have already taken these steps so they can share the experiences that they’ve had with decriminalization and legalization.”
“I really hope that this will build on the momentum that we started earlier last summer, then with the new elections having happened, we’ll have new leadership because some of these reform measures that have bene proposed had consistently been defeated in the old Republican leadership in the state legislature,” he said. “Now we’ve got a whole new team coming in and I think it’s a historic opportunity for Virginia to really make a major step here.”
Herring pointed to polling that shows Virginia residents are supportive of reform and said legislative efforts will be bolstered by a cannabis caucus that’s formed in the legislature.
The top law enforcement official has been a strong advocate for decriminalization and legalization, emphasizing the waste of police resources dedicated to enforcing criminalization, the long-term harms of criminal records for low-level cannabis offenses and the need for policies that are equitable.
“The social and human costs [of prohibition] are tremendous, and the weight of the system falls disproportionately on African Americans and people of color,” he wrote in an op-ed last month. “There are smarter, better ways we can handle cannabis and that begins with decriminalizing simple possession of small amounts, addressing past convictions and moving towards legal, regulated adult use.”
A lawmaker in the state has already prefiled a cannabis decriminalization bill for the 2020 session that would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a maximum $50 civil penalty.
Photo courtesy of Twitter/Cheddar.
Trump Says Marijuana Makes People “Lose IQ Points” In Secret Recording
President Trump could be heard saying that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points” in a secretly recorded conversation released on Saturday.
“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said in the clip captured by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment. “It does cause an IQ problem.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Photo courtesy of YouTube/White House.
Austin Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Will Continue Despite City Council Vote
Chief Brian Manley said he would continue to enforce marijuana laws the day after the city council unanimously approved stopping arrests and tickets for low-level cases.
The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.
“[Marijuana] is still illegal, and we will still enforce marijuana law if we come across people smoking in the community,” Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
Though cracking down on those in possession of small amounts of marijuana has never been a priority for the department, he said, police will continue to either issue tickets under the city’s “cite-and-release” policy or arrest people if officers “come across it.”
The difference, according to City Council member and resolution sponsor Greg Casar, is that the council’s move now guarantees those actions will come with no penalty. Tickets will be meaningless pieces of paper and any arrests will result in a quick release with no charges accepted from prosecutors, he told The Texas Tribune after the news conference.
“What has changed since yesterday is that enforcement, almost in virtually all cases, is now handing someone a piece of paper with no penalty or no court date,” Casar said.
The move by the City Council came as a direct result from Texas’ new hemp law which complicated marijuana prosecution across the state. Last summer, when lawmakers legalized hemp, they also changed the definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.
Many prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, now won’t accept pot cases based on look and smell alone, requiring lab testing to determine THC levels before accepting a case. Such testing is not yet available in public crime labs, though some counties and cities have spent money to obtain test results from private labs.
The council’s resolution prohibited using city funds or personnel to conduct such testing in non-felony marijuana cases. It also directed the elimination, to the furthest extent possible, of arrests or citations for cannabis possession. As Manley also noted, the resolution clarifies it can’t technically decriminalize marijuana, since that is state law.
The resolution gave the city manager until May 1 to report back to the council on how police were trained in this new resolution, and Casar said he hopes Manley reviews his policies before then.
Manley said in the news conference that he would continue to review the resolution, as well as police policies.
But, he assured, “a City Council does not have the authority to tell a police department not to enforce a state law.”
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans
Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.
“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”
“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”
Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.
He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.
That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.
At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”
“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.
Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.