DC NORML, Virginia Activists Thwart Prohibitionist Movement In Virginia

A dazzling array of tough new anti-drug proposals failed to pass the Virginia General Assembly this week. The measures were opposed by a drug-law reform coalition that included members of DC NORML, Virginians Against Drug Violence, and Virginia’s Cannabis Action Network. The measures would have increased marijuana penalties, permitted drug testing of high-school students, and given courts the broad authority to continue cases despite improper procedures or incomplete lab results.

“This year we had a real show of force,” said activist Lennice Werth of Virginians Against Drug Violence. “[We had] lots of anti-prohibitionists showing up at the state house to voice their dissatisfaction with this kind of legislation.”

Among bills defeated outright were measures to include marijuana seeds and stems as evidence to increase marijuana penalties (SB34, SB58, HB96, HB169); allow courts to continue cases that have been dismissed due to improper procedures (HB646, SB53); add a $1,000 additional fine for possession or distribution charges to go to local authorities (HB1002), and permit the drug testing of high school students (HB949, HB950, HB579).

A measure that was not killed, but amended, was legislation that would have greatly expanded the use of military for drug law enforcement, particularly for searching private property. Werth notes that the amended bill limits use of the military to aerial surveillance only and called the revision “a substantial victory” for the drug reform movement.

Some measures that passed the General Assembly despite the efforts of drug-law reformers include legislation to legalize double jeopardy (SB435, SJR73) and deny bail to drug offenders (HB504). Altogether, reformers monitored a total of 48 bills.

For more information, please contact Lennice Werth of Virginians Against Drug Violence at (804) 645-8816.