Frank Ruff: Marijuana law needs more work

Published 10:12 am Sunday, October 29, 2023

Editor’s Note: After last week’s Q & A, State Sen. Frank Ruff wanted to add a bit more to the discussion we had on marijuana. To be fair, we reached out to his opponent in this year’s race, Trudy Berry, asking if she too wanted to add anything further. Here’s both of their responses.

Much has been said and written about marijuana since the Democrats passed legislation while they had control of the House, Senate, and Governor Northam was in charge. Let me recap a little of what has happened.

In the last few days of the 2021 session, they put copies of a bill that had not been vetted by legislative services on our desks. The bill was hundreds of pages long. They forced an immediate vote before anyone had time to read it. On a party line vote, they passed the bill. In the following hours, it became very clear why they wanted no opportunity for review. The following are some of the most questionable items.

Email newsletter signup

1. Any adult could apply for a license; however, preferred consideration would be given to those with past drug convictions.

2. Applicants were required to have a shop and pay a 22% tax on sales. Not a bad policy, however, those currently selling marijuana underground would have a major advantage without these extra costs.

3. The bill limits law enforcement from cracking down on illegal sales.

4. It allows individuals to grow up to four plants for personal use, but they can give it away.

Because they knew it was poorly written, the first two items above were delayed to refine during the 2022 session. 

2022 session

The Democrats lost the House of Delegates in the 2021 session. There has been limited support among Republicans, particularly on item 1. Additionally, many believe if Virginia is going to approve anything, there must be a way for law enforcement to test for ‘under the influence’. Without some acceptable way to measure this, there is no way to convict anyone.

Where things stand

Some are opening shops that skirt the law. I encourage all to read an in-depth story by Dwayne Yancey in Cardinal News.

“I walked into a store in Roanoke County, bought a pair of pruning shears and was given a marijuana joint as a “gift”. I made this transaction at a business called the Zarati Shop,’ Yancey said. “In September, this was one of the 24 businesses across Southwest Virginia that were raided in what Virginia State Police called “ongoing criminal investigation into allegations of money laundering and illegal narcotic distribution.”

Yancey wrote “I never opened the bag. I turned it over to the forensic science lab at Virginia Commonwealth University for testing. The testing confirmed that the joint did, indeed, contain enough THC to qualify as marijuana (as opposed to hemp). The sample tested positive — “above the acceptable limit,” for mold and yeast. It also contained unidentified bacteria. According to VCU, “The implications of smoking a joint with unacceptable levels of mold and yeast can cause severe lung infections and congestion.”

There have been reports of marijuana laced with fentanyl. This is another problem caused by this legislation, it drives street dealers into making a product that gives a greater high.

Remember which political party caused this fiasco and vote accordingly.

Frank Ruff Jr. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.