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OPINION — Marijuana legalization is very bad policy

The 2021 General Assembly reconvened session that occurred last week was almost exactly what I expected it to be – a confirmation of the 2021 session’s far left policies and ideas.  While there were a number of issues covered during the reconvened session, there were only two of major significance, legalizing marijuana and dealing with the Virginia Parole Board misconduct situation.

Legalizing marijuana

Legalizing marijuana is something I have always been strongly against, but Democrats voted almost in lock step to legalize marijuana beginning July 1.  This makes Virginia the 16th state to legalize the drug and the first in the south.

This legislation will legalize possession of marijuana for recreational use and allow households to grow a small number of plants in their homes starting July 1.  These plants are to be kept out of sight from public view and away from individuals under the age of 21.  It is clear that Governor Ralph Northam and the Democrat majority are ignoring the fact that violent and nonviolent crime rates have increased in states following marijuana legalization, and that home cultivation is nothing more than an invitation for children’s involvement, robberies and worse.

Regardless of where one stands on the policy, the implementation here is terrible.  The Democrats voted to legalize possession before retail sales are in place – they will not begin until January 1, 2024.  This will supercharge the illicit market — making it all the more difficult to bring consumers into the legal market when it arrives. House Democrats made the same arguments themselves — until their activist base threatened them and Governor Northam.
Democrats also used this legislation to begin an attack on our Right to Work laws, effectively making new cannabis stores closed shops.  Challenged on the appropriateness of this part of the legislation, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn resorted to the “it is because I say it is” in her ruling from the chair.

This legislation was the product of last-minute changes and amendments and the final approved legislation is complex and ambiguous about what will and won’t be allowed.  A major policy decision like this should not have been done quickly simply for the sake of getting it done.  I believe this is going to be a very bad policy going forward for Virginia.

Parole board

You may have been following the story of misconduct at the Virginia Parole Board.  After information was exposed by a whistleblower, an investigation by the Virginia Office of the State Inspector General found that both the previous and current chairs broke the law and took illegal shortcuts to get killers out of jail.  Since then, the whistleblower has been fired.

Documents show that the board has released a significant number of truly heinous killers, including some sentenced to multiple life terms.

During the reconvened session, Democrats voted to fund Governor Northam’s parole board whitewash.  The “investigators” will be chosen by Democrats, some of whom like the attorney general, have been implicated in the scandal.  The “investigation” is not into the parole board. Rather it is an investigation into the investigation of the parole board.

The release of nearly 70 killers from supervision will not be examined.  The decision to turn off the victim notification system will not be examined.  The documented violations of policy in the release of some seven inmates will not be examined.  An attempt by the former chair of the parole board to have staff members falsify documents will not be examined.
What we expect is a finding that “policies were not followed” with a “don’t do it again” slap on the wrist.  It is abundantly clear that the governor and his team have chosen a scapegoat — the Office of Inspector General — and are clearing the decks to absolve themselves and their allies of any culpability in the scandal and its cover-up.
Democrats are desperate for this issue to go away and will do anything they must to put an end to it — including this whitewash of an investigation.

I appreciate those who contacted my office during session and hope you will continue to reach out when we can be of assistance.  The best way to contact me is via email at DelTWright@house.virginia.gov or by calling 434.696.3061.  You can also send mail to PO Box 1323, Victoria, Virginia 23974.