OPINION – Windsor police incident should be investigated

Published 10:54 am Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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On Wednesday, during the reconvened session, Governor Ralph Northam’s proposed changes to a marijuana legalization bill were accepted by the General Assembly.

This allows limited possession and cultivation of marijuana starting July 1. Adults age 21 and up will be able to legally possess up to one ounce (28.3 grams) of cannabis without the intent to distribute as well as cultivate four plants per household.

Regardless of where one stands on the policy, the implementation here is terrible.

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Legalizing possession before retail sales are in place will supercharge the illicit market making it even more difficult to bring consumers into the legal market when it arrives.

I understand the asking of “why not” in terms of legalization, but I believe the bill’s passage was not thought out and pushed through a virtual session without the proper meaningful discussion and policy implementation needed.

I also am unconfident in how enforcement will work, especially when it comes to businesses. I do not agree with the amount of training law enforcement and businesses will receive in terms of being able to determine who is capable of operating vehicles or other heavy equipment. The money set aside for law enforcement training will just be a drop in the bucket. I am also still unsure about the process for legally obtaining seeds to plant the allowed amount of marijuana for personal use.

If there are problems with an imbalance with incarcerations or a need for education, we shouldn’t be starting that process on the same day that marijuana becomes legal and kids start using it.

Unfortunately, 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, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn resorted to the ‘it is because I say it is’ in her ruling from the chair.

The majority also voted to fund Governor Northam’s Parole Board investigation, or lack of.

The investigators will be chosen by democratic leaders, some of whom like the attorney general, have been implicated in the scandal. The investigation is not bipartisan and 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.

I am very eager to see what findings are brought about in this investigation and will share that information when I receive it.

While we don’t have all the facts about the police stop of Lieutenant Caron Nazario, it’s clear that the officers in question did not handle the stop in an entirely professional manner.

The incident deserves a complete and impartial investigation to find out what happened and why. Hours after Governor Northam on Sunday said he directed state police to investigate the treatment of a minority Army second lieutenant by two Windsor police officers, the town announced one of the officers had been fired.

I supported measures during the 2020 Special Session that will make it easier for chiefs and sheriffs to get rid of bad police officers.

Incidents like this are the reason it’s so important to ensure that disciplinary matters aren’t subject to contracts with police unions.

Every Virginian deserves to be treated with respect by law enforcement. If there is a pattern of bad behavior with these officers, or this department, it should be addressed immediately.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.