WE STAND FOR YOU CVILLE!
Jes Vegas, Lady Liberty WPLL – Jonathan Crosby, Photographer SWAP
The Charlottesville Downtown Mall has been the home of Shirts With A Purpose for 16 years. Our shirts are stored on the street where the car attack occurred yesterday afternoon. We have walked that pavement hundreds of times and now it is scarred with death from hatred. Our hearts are deeply saddened by this tragic fatality. The shock is hard to shake. Prayers to all of the victims of domestic terrorism. Heather Heyer may you Rise in Peace.
Decriminalize: Issue a fine for possessing a small amount of marijuana
Under current Virginia law, the possession of one-half ounce of cannabis or less is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment issued a request to “undertake a study examining a future change to the Code of Virginia regarding criminal penalties related to the possession of small amounts of marijuana.” The commission’s findings will be presented on October 5.
The Crime Commission wants to hear from YOU by August 25th! It only takes a couple minutes and a couple clicks to help us in this monumental opportunity for our Commonwealth. PLEASE #TakeAction!
By Daniel Rondeau, Virginia NORML Communications Director
Recently, the Virginia State Crime Commission agreed to undertake a study on decriminalization. From a perspective well-represented in comments on Facebook, decriminalization has been implemented around the country for nearly two decades. And, with the nationwide trend toward regulating both adult and medical use, why does Virginia still need a study? Why won’t Virginia lawmakers just move forward with the seemingly obvious solution of decriminalization? The answer lies in legislative procedure.
In a trial court the finder of fact, either judge or jury, must “find” the facts of a case from the mountain of evidence presented. Although legislatures are not the same as a court of law, there are similarities in the way that they recognize facts, even when it appears everyone knows that facts as obvious.
Legislative Findings fuel Political Progress
Legislatures undertake studies to form official reports. Government researchers, staffed by non-partisan analysts, will comb through mounds of data from Virginia’s current criminal prohibition of marijuana and the statistical data from decriminalized states. The primary purpose of the study is how to amend Virginia Code without losing federal funding. Analysts will also consider any collateral impacts from decriminalization policies experienced in other states. (The effects of the proposed policy changes have been positive for decriminalized communities.) Lawmakers can finally make progress on decriminalization bills with firm political footing, armed with the Crime Commission study’s findings.
There are still legislators in Virginia who remain opposed to and unconvinced of the need for criminal justice reform regarding marijuana. They supported a limited affirmative defense bill for intractable epilepsy because they were emotionally moved by the impact of cannabis on those patients and did not agree with the criminalization of those children or their families. They have yet to be moved by the collateral damages of Virginia’s outdated, overly punitive marijuana policy on anyone else. The impact of these consequences to Virginians will finally be considered by traditional reform opponents when supported with a state-issued report.
Armed with Facts, Ready to Legislate
There are many Virginia lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who support and are ready to move forward with decriminalization. This study is a key procedural requirement. The Crime Commission will receive an official report from non-partisan government analysts on the outlined points which can then be used officially to support decriminalization legislation introduced in the 2018 General Assembly.
The results of the study will simply highlight that Virginian communities will not collapse into a dysfunctional mess following decriminalization, a lesson already apparent from the 21 other American jurisdictions that have decriminalized adult marijuana possession. Virginia’s criminal prohibition of marijuana creates significant barriers between the convicted and their achievement of the common goal to become a contributing citizen of the Commonwealth.
ON WEDNESDAY, the Virginia State Crime Commission decided to study the decriminalization of marijuana in Virginia. The commonwealth has one of the most punitive marijuana policies in the United States. Decriminalization of adult marijuana possession is desperately needed.
The decriminalization policy proposed is similar to decriminalized policies of states like Nebraska and Ohio. Decriminalization isn’t full legalization — possession would be subject to a ticket and a fine, but people wouldn’t be arrested or face jail.
In 2015, police arrested 22,428 people for marijuana possession in Virginia. About 90 percent of all misdemeanor drug arrests in Virginia are for marijuana possession. Jail costs taxpayers an average of $79 per day, per inmate — a total of nearly a billion dollars in 2015.
Policies in Hampton and Virginia Beach require prosecutors to focus on homicides, gun crimes and other dangerous crimes, rather than simple marijuana possession.
But arrests of black people for marijuana possession in Virginia have increased drastically since 2003, accounting for 47 percent of all arrests in the commonwealth, even though Virginia’s population is only 20 percent black.
Minorities are nearly three times more likely to be convicted of marijuana offenses than white Virginians, even though the two groups’ usage rates are the same.
Decriminalizing marijuana would allow police, prosecutors and the courts to reallocate their resources toward activities that will better serve the public. Criminalizing these communities drastically reduces the economic and civic possibilities available to them.
Letter to the Editor
Our Cannabis Liberation Rally was very successful this past July. Dozens came out to show their support and share their stories about how prohibition has influenced their lives and why they would like to see change. While marching down the Historic Downtown Mall of Charlottesville numerous observers pulled out their smart phone to capture the history being made with each step. The media coverage was astounding and all sources presented our event and message with respect.
Photo courtesy of R.M. Kelly of the Daily Progress
Join us as we rally to raise awareness on the importance of marijuana legalization, medical marijuana accessibility, and political advocacy in Virginia! We will meet at the Free Speech Wall on the Downtown Mall of Charlottesville at 1PM. There will be guest speakers including: Rob Rowley, Owner of Shirts With A Purpose; Jes Vegas, Director of Jefferson Area NORML; and Pamela Novy, Policy Director of Virginia NORML. Those who participate will receive free stickers, a vintage Freedom Leaf Magazine, and a coupon for our t-shirts. There will be an after rally social at a local bar, Rapture where you can “meet and greet” with Virginia NORML Board Members and one another. To find out more about our event please go to Facebook: Cannabis Liberation Rally 2016. Please bring friends and family as we plan to make history in the Commonwealth. If you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can make a difference if you #TakeAction and #PreachYourSpeech. Always remember that we are the #LittleEngineThatCannabis. We hope to see you there!
This just in a SWAPical Storm is blowing in and the forecast is calling for $10 and $12 shirts! We are setting “sale” for new products to come and are flooded with merchandise that must go, go, go away! Check out the designs below and order yours today! #puffpuffpassiton
For those of you on the East Coast stay safe and prepared. Water and wind can be powerful and should be taken seriously!