Virginia is for medical cannabis lovers. Too bad their state government hasn't caught on yet. A study released today by the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws Virginia chapter shows that 72 percent of registered Virginia voters would support medical marijuana laws in their state.
According to Ed McCann, Virginia NORML director, the Mother of States already has medical marijuana laws on the books dating back to the 1970s. They are limited and only allow for cancer and glaucoma patients, but he says that's a start. The only problem: the law requires a doctors prescription to use cannabis. That would require it to be recognized as medicine by the feds, and since marijuana is not medically beneficial according to our oh-so-wise leaders in Washington, nobody in Virginia can legally possesses medical marijuana.
"Virginia needs to join the 18 states, including its neighbor Washington DC, that allow their residents to use marijuana with their doctor's approval," McCann wrote in a press release today. "Virginians highly trust and respect their doctors, and if their doctor recommends marijuana, they don't want to be criminals to use or get it. Rarely do we see such high levels of support across the political spectrum for what once was a controversial issue. Elected officials across Virginia would be wise to align themselves with the overwhelming majority of their constituents.""
Virginia NORML director Ed McCann.
According to the study, conducted by the public policy institute Virginia-based Christopher Newport University, strongest support was from people 25-34 as well as from blacks and Democrats. Combined, those groups approved for greater access to medical marijuana by more than 80 percent. Even registered Republicans were in favor of amending Virginia's laws to allow qualified patients the use of medical cannabis, with about 52 percent agreeing.
McCann tells Toke of the Town that because Virginia doesn't allow for voter referendums, any change would be up to state legislators. He says it wouldn't be unheard of, especially considering last year's discussion on opening up marijuana sales through the state-run liquor stores. "In Virginia, it's a hidden issue," he said. "It's been brushed under the rug and it needs to become a topic of discussion among our elected officials."
But while medical marijuana attitudes are changing, the poll showed that voters still isn't in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use with 52 percent saying that would be a bad idea.
Frankly, Virginia needs some reform. Currently, any amount less than a half-ounce is a misdemeanor offense with 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Between a half-ounce and five pounds will net you up to ten years in prison and $2,500 in fines. Getting caught growing your own will get you between five and thirty years and $10,000 in fines. On top of that, the state can seize all of your assets in a civil proceeding, regardless of whether or not criminal charges were ever filed against you.