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How Do Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates Feel About Marijuana?

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virginia medical marijuana governor election 2014By Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director

One of, if not the, highest profile election this year is the Virginia gubernatorial race. Things are beginning to heat up as we enter the final two month stretch before the election on November 5th and NORML thought it was worth looking at how the issue of marijuana law reform has come into play.

There are three candidates on the ballot vying for the position: Terry McAuliffe (Democrat), Ken Cuccinelli (Republican), and Robert Sarvis (Libertarian).

Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis is campaigning with marijuana law reform as a central plank in his platform. In response to a NORML candidate survey, Sarvis stated: “I support the full legalization of marijuana. If that is politically unfeasible in Virginia, I would support an intermediate step like decriminalization of possession and allowing medical marijuana.”

In an interview with a local FOX affiliate, Sarvis elaborated on his position, stating “I think these [marijuana]laws … are very expensive to enforce. They do a lot of damage to families and communities. They lead to high incarceration rates and unemployment rates when people can’t get jobs.”

You can read his drug policy platform here.

Republican Ken Cuccinelli made some statements about marijuana policy early in the campaign, but has largely remained silent since the beginning of this year and has not answered specifics such as which measures, if any, he would support and sign into law.

Responding to a student question while speaking to a class at the University of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli said he was “evolving” on the marijuana issue.

“I don’t have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing I think that’s the role of states,” Cuccinelli stated, “I’m not sure about Virginia’s future [re: marijuana legalization], but I and a lot of people are watching Colorado and Washington to see how it plays out.”

“What I expressed to [the students]was an openness to observe how things work there, both in terms of the drug side and the economics. One issue that is often discussed is how the war on drugs itself has played out. Have we done this the right way? It’s been phenomenally expensive.”

Discussing the issue at a later event, Cuccinelli said that, “[If we are] going to put people in jail and spend $25,000 [to]$30,000 a year for a prison bed, do we want it to be for someone who’s pushing marijuana or pushing meth? I’ll tell you what, that $30,000 for the meth pusher is well worth the deal.”

He stated that “I’m ready to watch and learn. I’m not ready to do it [legalize marijuana]but I don’t want to just never ever say never to the possibility in the future.”

He clarified this isn’t an issue he expects to take up if he wins the election. “I don’t want you to think that I’m going to land in the governor’s office and sign a legalization bill. I don’t think you have to worry about it getting to the governor’s desk but it’s worth knowing what your candidate’s saying.”

The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, has not issued any statements or formalized positions on marijuana law reform.

Join NORML in asking the candidates to clarify their positions when it comes to marijuana!

Click here to contact the McAuliffe campaign and here to contact the Cuccinelli campaign.

Below is a template letter you can send or personalize as you see fit:

“As a Virginia voter, I believe one of the most important issues facing our state is its failed war against marijuana. Before I decide which candidate to support this November, I’d like you to clarify your position on marijuana law reform.

Would you support legislation to allow for the medical use of cannabis and provide Virginia’s seriously ill patients with safe access to a medicine with fewer side effects and no risk of fatal overdose compared with conventional narcotic medications?

Would you support decriminalizing the possession of marijuana and halting the arrests of over 18,000 Virginians annually at the cost of 67 million dollars per year?

Would you consider supporting a regulated system for the adult use of marijuana, taking the profits away from criminal cartels, putting control in the hands of regulated businesses, and implementing age restrictions and regulations to decrease youth access?

This is an issue that is inversely impacting countless thousands of Virginians. It erodes our civil liberties and wastes over 67 million dollars a year to arrest non-violent cannabis consumers. I’d appreciate hearing your position on this important matter.”

You can also tweet at the candidates @TerryMcAuliffe and @KenCuccinelli and ask them to take a position:

tweet virginia marijuana governor election 2014

Note: We are not including Libertarian Robert Sarvis as a target for these messages, as he already has formalized and publicized his marijuana policy position. If you wish to contact that campaign you can view his website here and Twitter page here.

You can get involved with marijuana law reform in the Commonwealth by following Virginia NORML here.

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  • chris

    Vote sarvis case closed.

  • theendisfar

    This debate has not been framed correctly, this is not about Marijuana ‘legalization’, this debate is about Marijuana PROHIBITION.

    If you criminalize a commodity, especially one say as addictive as Tobacco, you do not decrease the Demand, you simply put the Control and Regulation of that commodity into the hands of the most violent and highest risk takers. You simply drive the price up, by reducing the supply, therefore making it expensive enough that people are willing to KILL others to control the market in that area.

    There is also the issue of the 9th Amendment, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The People have a Right to actions and behaviors that do not infringe upon the Rights of others. People have a Right to own and use Marijuana, just as they have a Right to own and use tomatoes, alcohol, paper, and every other commodity out there.

    This notion of ‘Legalizing’ what the Gov’t, especially the Feds, has no Authority to criminalize just goes to show that Americans have no clue what Rights and Privileges are. If you have to ask permission, then it is a Privilege, if you don’t then it is a Right. Under what Authority does the Government have the Privilege to give Permission? Who gave the Gov’t that Privilege? Who has the Authority to give that Privilege?

    Wake up America, and Recognize your Rights!

  • Choom Gang

    I like what NORML is doing here.