virginia medical marijuana
Ending Marijuana Prohibition

Marijuana Expungement Bill To Be Introduced In Virginia

virginia medical marijuanaThe ‘marijuana scarlet letter’ is a very real thing. I have many friends who have been effectively boxed out of many things that many people take for granted – employment, financial aid for college, housing, and many, many other things. All because they were caught one time with a plant that is 114 times safer than alcohol. Wherever they go, their marijuana conviction is sure to follow. That is unfair, and obviously can ruin people’s lives.

That’s why activists push for expungement bills, even in states where marijuana is now legal. Wherever there are citizens with marijuana convictions, activists should be pushing for that type of reform. It sounds like there will be an expungement bill introduced in Virginia during the upcoming session. Per the Daily Press:

A key Senate Republican said Thursday that he’ll back legislation that would allow young people to seek expungement of alcohol and marijuana convictions.

State Sen. Ryan McDougle, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, said the bill will be one of a few criminal justice reform measures likely to move in the coming legislative session, which begins next month. He said people under 21 should be given a shot at expungement to improve their employment options.

The legislation would deal with simple possession cases, not selling marijuana. McDougle, a former prosecutor, said there’s no method for expungement now.

This bill obviously wouldn’t go far enough, but it is a good step in the right direction. People should be able to expunge ALL past marijuana convictions, not just those for possession. And it shouldn’t matter what age you were convicted. A marijuana conviction on someone’s record can ruin their live regardless of what age they were at the time of the conviction. The Drug Policy Alliance recently published a press release that talks about the dramatic rise in marijuana convictions in the last decade, especially in African American neighborhoods. That press release is copied and pasted below:

A new report has found that marijuana possession arrests in Virginia have increased dramatically over the last ten years, especially in black communities. The report was authored by Shenandoah University professor and researcher Jon Gettman and released today by the Drug Policy Alliance. The entire report can be read at: www.drugpolicy.org/VAmjarrests

“As states around the country pass reforms to scale back the role of criminalization in marijuana policy, Virginia appears to be moving in the wrong direction,” said Lindsey Lawson Battaglia, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance and former Virginia criminal defense attorney.  “This troubling report should encourage Virginia lawmakers to fix the Commonwealth’s broken marijuana policies.”

Using data compiled from the Uniform Crime (UCR) Program and the Virginia State Police, the report found that marijuana possession arrests in Virginia consistently increased from 2003 to 2013, as did the racial disparity in arrest rates.  Federal government data consistently shows that black and white people use marijuana at similar rates.

Adding insult to injury, Virginia’s massive number of marijuana arrests usurp scarce law enforcement, criminal justice and treatment resources at enormous cost to taxpayers.

Earlier this year, Virginia State Senator Adam Ebbin introduced a bill that would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of marijuana in Virginia, which received support from the Fairfax County NAACP and the ACLU of Virginia.

“The racial disparity in marijuana arrests in Virginia is deeply troubling, and the barriers that a criminal record brings are particularly worrisome. Studies show marijuana use does not vary significantly between whites and blacks, yet African-Americans are over three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related offenses,” said Senator Adam Ebbin.

The report’s key findings include:

  • In 2013, the ratio of marijuana possession arrests of black residents compared to white residents was 3.3 to 1.  This is an increase from 2003, when it was 2.4 to 1.
  • From 2003 to 2013 marijuana possession arrests in Virginia increased 76% from 13,032 to 22,948. In the three years from 2011 to 2013, marijuana possession arrests increased by 1,987, with black Virginians accounting for 82% (or 1,627) of this increase.
  • During the eleven-year period from 2003 to 2013, arrests of black people in Virginia for marijuana possession more than doubled from 4,991 to 10,293 – a 106% increase. By comparison, arrests of white people increased by 44% during this period.
  • In 2013, over half (54%) of the state’s marijuana possession arrests took place in the counties of Fairfax, Chesterfield and Prince William; and the cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, Roanoke and Lynchburg.  Some of the largest increases in arrests over the most recent three years (2011 to 2013) occurred in Rockbridge (188%), Bedford (166%), Franklin (140%), Manassas City (132%), Emporia City (83%), Arlington (81%), Botetourt (62%), Wythe (57%), and Norfolk City (49%).  Also of note are increases in Danville (31%), Chesapeake (30%), Richmond City (30%) and Virginia Beach City (13%).
  • These trends contradict the original intent of Virginia’s state legislature in enacting the Commonwealth’s current marijuana possession law back in 1979. At that time, the legislature intended to reinvest scarce resources wasted on marijuana possession arrests to more important priorities such as large scale drug trafficking.

Penalties for marijuana possession under Virginia law are no small matter and can haunt a person for the rest of their life. A marijuana arrest creates a permanent criminal record, easily available to banks, schools, employers, landlords, and licensing and other government agencies.  A person convicted of a marijuana law violation in Virginia can be punished by up to 30 days in jail or a fine of up to $500. A second or subsequent offense is the class 1 misdemeanor which is up to 12 months and/or up to a $2500 fine. For noncitizens, a marijuana arrest can trigger deportation, sometimes with almost no possibility of discretionary relief.

Twenty states have enacted various forms of marijuana decriminalization by reducing or eliminating penalties for minor marijuana offenses. Four states have taken the additional step of legally regulating the sale, cultivation and distribution of marijuana for adults over 21. Additionally, 23 states and D.C. have passed reforms to legalize medical marijuana.

In Virginia and nationally, public support for making marijuana legal has shifted dramatically in the last two decades, with recent polls showing greater than majority support. More than two-thirds believe those caught with marijuana should be fined or not punished at all. A Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released in April 2015 found that a majority of Virginia voters support legalizing marijuana for adults, and a super-majority support allowing medical marijuana in the state.  Virginia voters strongly support allowing the medical use of marijuana, with 86% in favor and only 11% opposed. Support for legalizing recreational marijuana for adults was 54%, with just 41% opposed.

“These antiquated and extremely punitive laws, seemingly in a very targeted fashion, have served to devastate scores of individuals, families, neighborhoods, churches and houses of faith in too many of Virginia’s communities,” said Jesse Frierson, executive director of the Virginia Alliance Against Mass Incarceration.

The Drug Policy Alliance is hosting the International Drug Policy Reform Conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel on November 18-21 in Arlington, Virginia.  This conference brings together thousands of drug policy experts, health care and drug treatment professionals, elected officials, law enforcement, students, and formerly incarcerated people from around the United States and around the world who are working to end the war on drugs. Advocates from across the state of Virginia will convene a meeting at this conference to prepare for Virginia’s next legislative session in 2016.

Source: Drug Policy Alliancemake a donation

  • jasen joseph hylbert

    In a world without any restrictions whatsoever on hemp growth, there would be a lot less negative opinions regarding herbal cannabis. If hateful people with backward values had not been telling their neighboors not to grow a very nutritious food crop just so they could price gouge the people in town so much, then the whole public perception regarding herbal cannabis would not be so negative. Even a lot of people who are sincerely for actually really completely ending the prohibition of cannabis do not have respect for the use of herbal cannabis – they are mainly wanting hemp to be not prohibited at all and are against the inefficiencies of corrupt economics. So far I have yet to see an actual repeal of cannabis prohibition which acknowledges the bill of rights completely and reflects what is actually rightful and good for everyone.

    If only people would realize that not reckognizing the constitution is illegal and that being part of the enforcement of unconstitutional laws damages their lives too. I think that the real root of the problem is the shame that is all to prevalent in our society. People are often to shameful to even stand up straight, and they often fall into thinking that everyone needs to constantly be humbled and “taught a lesson”…

    A lot of the charges out there are completely false or involve entrapment and/ or planting of the so called contraband on the so called suspect.

    It really is difficult to fathom the idiocy of how illogically controlling people are sometimes.

  • jasen joseph hylbert

    I have no doubt that the hemp prohibitionists have qualms about continueing their hateful war on such an efficient and healthy food crop.

    The negative public perceptions about herbal cannabis are almost completely a result of the lunacy of people trying to prevent their neighbours from growing the hemp plant for it’s superior uses as a superfood and a particularly strong fiber.

  • Ken DeBusk

    Where does that “114 times safer than alcohol” number come from? I would assume it means for every 114 alcohol deaths, illnesses, or injuries there is one from weed. I don’t believe that’s the case. I’d be interested in the origin, please, or some sort of mathematical explanation.

  • jasen joseph hylbert

    The most egregious aspect of the war on cannabis has been the slandering of the reputations of those of us who have been pushing for completely unrestricted growth of industrial hemp. Drug cartels have been standing in the way of industrial hemp production just so they can more effectively decieve and overcharge their consumers for a product which may contain additives if not self grown.

    Hempseed is a superfood which benefits the health of people and domestic or wild animals in the following ways.

    – Hempseed food bolsters health to the extent that it is significantly preventative regarding cancers and diabetes/ glaucoma

    – Hempseed food improves the mood of those who consume it.

    – Hempseed can help a person’s health so much that it can help distract from any negative events from the past.

    Hempseed contains essential fatty acids that help keep bodies pain free.

    Anyone who uses string/ rope and/ or twine knows how much stronger hemp is than the other natural alternatives.

  • jasen joseph hylbert

    While at an airport in oregon state, the airport security pretended to act like my container of hempseed protein powder was something to be concerned about. From the looks of things, he was not someone who had been acculturated to be concerned about his health. It is a real crime that misplaced values have led to such situations.

    Most importantly, the haters who ban hemp while overcharging people and limiting their capacities to grow their own are not a real representation of American culture. There is a clear and obvious attempt being made by the hateful hemp prohibitionists to make American culture look very bad, and those of us who are not haters need to be certain to let the outside world know that they are not an accurate representation of us.

    I doubt that the hemp prohibitionists have any sincere sense of pride in self, pride in humanity, pride in culture, or patriotism. Nobody has ever been hired by real authorities to ban hemp in any way. The nhilistic haters who restrict hemp growing are the real source of all of the possession charges and other war on cannabis related charges.

  • jasen joseph hylbert

    Who is to blame for all of those posession charges and other cannabis related criminal charges? The people who seek to restrict hemp so they can rip people off to a maximum extent are the real ones to blame for all of that nonsense.

  • jasen joseph hylbert

    One lazy unpatriotic price gouger pushed hemp growth out of one area, then another lazy hater did the same in another area. Then another, and another, and so on. That is the real history of the war on cannabis.

    They found a guy who had an interest in keeping hemp growth back so he could make his wood into paper who also ran a newspaper and had him wirte a bunch of scare tactics/ advertisements in his illiterate versions of journalism. The found some racist slave mongers who would happily damage the average American’s economies by diverting thier taxes to pay for mass imprisonment and prison labor. They sullied the world in the name of their shame based hateful quest of world domination and subjugation of the entire human race into their superstitious system of mandatory shame and hate. All the while people could have been growing hemp in abundance and diplomatic cultural exchanges could have been happening. Exchanges is not what they were after, for their pathetic claims of superiority while ironically incriminating themselves atrempted to justify their attempts at destroying and replacing the cultures of the Americas and other places. The real truth is that every real advancement in communications and technology was stolen from our cultures which they pretended were inferior to them. It is as if they were do fearful thst they would be rejected by all of us that they felt the need to corrupt things in an attempt to subjugate or distract us while they advanced their hateful bigot imperialist systems of oppression.

    A history of hateful anti – Americans and anti humanists damaging one local economy after another while looting the resources of the earth for the lazy yet hungry pockets of them – the few. Their anticipated endpoint being total market control and rigging of markets while misallocating oil because they are too lazy to think about the other potential uses of oil and are too lazy to build a greenhouse and actually show pride in themselves and advocate for themselves. So now they are jumping on the back of the movement which really happened because of all of us unknowns being made examples of and risking our reputations while they cowardly kept overcharging people and remaining largely silent or even adding to the misinformation. Waddling over the fallen who they tried to sacrifice to now blatantly turn themsleves in as the cultural damagers they were and are.

    What was the point of it all then? Just to make an intimidating statement?
    Indeed those who hate and intimidate those of us who simply want to grow a good healthy food crop are quite similar to the fools who ran planes into the world trade center buildings – just a batch of superstitious haters who would have saved everyone a lot of trouble in the first place had they just had the courage to try and discuss things.

  • jasen joseph hylbert

    Blame the supressors of hemp for your cannabis related unconstitutional criminal records. If you are or have ever been a supressor of hemp, then blame yourself.

  • jasen joseph hylbert

    Had the not – so – tremendously – wealthy yet still proud and noble English and American royalties had more continued influence, the war on cannabis never would have happended. Thieving gangs from russia and central asia, though not all central asians or russians, took advantage of some guilt stricken well intended soldiers and staged coup after coop after coop around the world untill their criminal syndicate which had no real tradition of actually governing in a way which would attempt to provide for everyone had set up rigged markets for their potentially profitable yet distracting from food production concepts of industries. Prior to the heisting of influence on governance which was perpetrated by these hateful jelousy obsessed gangsters, starvation and racism were far less common than they are today. Family values and logic prevailed before the gangsters had influence. Now we are at a point in history where the hateful racist segregation imposing gangsters are finally realising that they were never so ugly in the eyes of the rest of us as they had feared before all of this progressed, and they are realizing that those of us who take pride in being fair and caring deserve influence on governance. This is not about just who is in charge – it is about learning from the past and not letting the bad things happen again. It is about considering different viewpoints and acknowledging what makes us all humans and united us – our need for food, shelter and other people is what unites us all. Hemp can provide food and shelter to every human on earth. Please let us not be distracted by some infantile obsession with feeling as though there is some pride to be had in simply being in control in and of itself. The pride is in knowing that each of us can influence things in a symbiotic way. There is no pride in being dictatorial, as lording over a supressed mass of serfs would take no talent whatsoever. There will never be any genuine pride or any feeling of real self worth to be gained and maintained from putting any restrictions on industrial hemp. As humans, we deserve to be proud because we can be good stewards and create water where there was lack of water prior to humanity. We can properly allocate resources in a way that would fascilitate making the earth more full of life, rather than being corrupt thieves who would in turn feel shameful and parasitic. That parasitic culture is not the way humanity has to be. At times there have been places which had more humans than are there today and those places were managed by humans in ways that made life there more abundant. Denying our higher ability to be good stewards of the earth is a myth which would inevitably result in feelings of guilt and lack of worthiness, which in turn can be expressed in weird and undesirable/ regrettable ways.

    Please stop banning hemp in places. Please stop saying to people that they cannot grow that foodcrop in their yard. Please stop giving humanity a bad name.

    Thank you for reading.

    • Nurse Ratched

      ” Medication Time “

      • saynotohypocrisy

        Why is that? You don’t like passionate drug war rants? Don’t read them.

  • saynotohypocrisy

    Virginians poll 86% – 11% in favor of medicinal marijuana. It’s pure fascist league when such overwhelming public opinion is suppressed by the legislature. Legislative opponents of MMJ are guilty of manslaughter and deserve to be prosecuted for it. Maybe they will be one day, or at least sued for every penny they’ve got in civil court..

  • Go #3:

    1 idiot + n drinks == a completely dangerous, senseless, out of control idiot

    where idiot == most people

    1 idiot + a couple puffs of pot == docile, contemplative, possibly even thinking, person