State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) earlier this month proposed a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Virginia. The bill, SB 1269, would reduce marijuana possession to a civil offense punishable only by fines, much like a traffic ticket. Another bill introduced by State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D), SB 908, would have had similar effects.
Though the Senate’s Courts of Justice Committee did not approve the bills yesterday, it did promise more study on marijuana decriminalization, according to Ebbin’s office.
State lawmakers didn’t set aside every marijuana-related bill, however. The committee overwhelmingly advanced another bill, SB 1091, by a vote of 14-1. If enacted into law, that bill would make it so adults convicted of simple possession of marijuana wouldn’t automatically lose their driver’s license for six months, as is the current law.
“My marijuana reform legislation will end consequential outcomes for simple marijuana possession, particularly for communities of color,” Ebbin said in a statement. “Possession of marijuana shouldn’t impact future employment opportunities, or cause the suspension of your driver’s license.”
A Senate committee also advanced two bills having to do with LGBT equality yesterday. The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee gave its blessing to two bills, SB 783 and SB 822, “with strong, bipartisan support,” according to a press release from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus.
The bills, introduced by Ebbin and Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D), respectively, address nondiscrimination in public employment and target anti-LGBT practices in public housing.
Beyer Opposes ‘Holman Rule’ — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has joined other local legislators in opposing the proposed reinstatement of the “Holman Rule,” which would allow a legislator to offer an amendment that would “reduce the salary of any federal employee, or eliminate a federal employee’s position without hearings, testimony, or due process.” [Federal News Radio, House of Representatives]
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Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The incident happened around 10:30 p.m. Police say somebody walked past a car on the 4200 block of Campbell Avenue — the approximate location of the Shirlington parking garage — and noticed that the windows were down and two people were naked inside.
The witness found the scene to be suspicious and called police.
Officers arriving and found three people, all in their 20s, asleep in a Nissan sedan. A man, Kamal Ghammache-Mansour, and a woman, Natalie Nowel, were completely naked, according to a crime report. A third, Jaclyn Devino, was clothed.
Upon being woken up, the trio told police that they were on a “hippie trip” across the country and Arlington was one of their stops, a police spokeswoman said. The two who were naked said they removed their clothes because they were hot, according to the spokeswoman. (The temperature at the time was in the low-to-mid 80s.)
Ghammache-Mansour and Nowel were charged with indecent exposure. All three were charged with possession of marijuana.
According to a Google search and social media accounts, Ghammache-Mansour is a saxophonist and a member of a jazz-influenced hip hop group, Nowel is a freelance artist and Devino owns a “energy healing and coaching” business.
Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the three did not elaborate on what their “hippie trip” stop in Arlington entailed. She warned against sleeping in one’s car, especially while naked, noting that Arlington residents are “pretty observant” about out-of-the-ordinary activity.
From an ACPD crime report:
INDECENT EXPOSURE, 160731054, 4200 block of S. Campbell Avenue. At approximately 10:31 p.m. on July 31, officers responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle. Upon officers arrival, they located three suspects asleep in the vehicle with two fully naked. Kamal Ghammache-Mansour, 26, of Albany CA, was arrested and charged with indecent exposure and possession of marijuana. Natalie Nowel, 21, of Boston MA, was arrested and charged with indecent exposure and possession of marijuana. Jaclyn Devino, 29, of Burlington VT, was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana.
Police say Zachary Van Dyke, 32, smoked pot with a 13-year-old student at his home. He also allegedly sold some pot to the teen.
Van Dyke was a teaching assistant at Gunston Middle School and a freshman basketball coach at Washington-Lee High School. He has been suspended by Arlington Public Schools and charged by police with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and distribution of marijuana.
Police say they’re seeking additional information from “anyone with past inappropriate encounters with this suspect.”
From an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department’s Drug Enforcement Unit is investigating a suspect involved in the distribution of marijuana to a juvenile victim. The suspect was a Teaching Assistant assigned to Gunston Middle School and a freshman basketball coach at Washington-Lee High School. He has been suspended by Arlington County Public Schools, pending the outcome of the investigation. Representatives with Arlington County Public Schools continue to cooperate with the police investigation.
The suspect, 32 year-old Zachary Van Dyke, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and distribution of marijuana stemming from an incident on May 27, 2016. The investigation revealed that Van Dyke transported the 13 year-old juvenile victim to his residence where they smoked marijuana. Van Dyke also sold marijuana to the juvenile. Van Dyke was arrested and held on bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility.
The investigation into this incident is ongoing. Anyone with past inappropriate encounters with this suspect or who has additional information is asked to call Detective S. Proud at 703.228.7156 or email [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).
Around 5 p.m., a man who claimed to have just smoked marijuana for the first time called 911 and said he couldn’t see and was having difficulty breathing.
He was evaluated by medics and voluntarily handed over the pot to police, according to scanner traffic.
Authorities were a bit skeptical about part of his claim, however. It was noted that the same guy — or, at least, someone at the same apartment — had called 911 on March 28 and reported breathing troubles after smoking weed for the first time.
In a press release, below, ACPD said the network sent parcels filled with marijuana from California to businesses and homes in the D.C. area. Thus far those businesses have not been identified, though police say warrants were executed at “various businesses and residences throughout the region.”
Two suspects — Dat T. Ngo and Kien V. Luong — have been arrested. Ngo was taken into custody at a nail salon in a Bethesda shopping center, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said. Drugs were seized from his vehicle, Bethesda Beat reported, citing a witness account.
Luong was arrested in Los Angeles, where he lives, and is awaiting extradition.
“This is an ongoing and active investigation [spanning] multiple states,” Savage said. “It’s likely we’ll see additional arrests in the future.”
In August 2015, a joint investigation was initiated by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Arlington County Police Department regarding the importation of marijuana into the Washington Metropolitan Region. As a result of this intensive investigation, a large-scale distribution network was identified as sending parcels from California to businesses in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
On Tuesday, February 23, 2016, Dat T. Ngo, of Alexandria, VA, was arrested by Montgomery County Police on an outstanding Arlington County warrant. Subsequent to his arrest, search warrants were executed at various businesses and residences throughout the region. The Northern Virginia Financial Initiative with Washington/Baltimore HIDTA also provided assistance. Search warrants were also executed in the State of California with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles Police Department. Kien V. Luong of Los Angeles, CA, was arrested on an outstanding Arlington County warrant and was being held at the Los Angeles County Jail awaiting extradition to the Commonwealth.
State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has again proposed a bill to decriminalize marijuana for personal use in Virginia.
Ebbin, who has won the endorsement of the pro-pot group NORML, proposed a similar bill last year, but it failed in the conservative Virginia General Assembly.
The bill, SB 104, would reduce marijuana possession to a civil offense punishable only by fines, like a traffic ticket, rather than jail time. It would also reduce the criminal penalties for marijuana distribution and possession with the intent to distribute.
Would you like to see marijuana decriminalized in Virginia?
County Creates Veterans Committee — Arlington County is creating a Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, to “identify, prioritize and implement programs and initiatives to recognize and support our active duty military population, our veterans, and their families.” The committee will also serve as the county’s liaison to the Vietnam War 50th anniversary commemoration. [Arlington County]
Pot Legalization Advocates Meeting in Arlington — The 2015 International Drug Policy Reform Conference is being held in Crystal City today through Saturday. The group holding the conference is planning to lobby Congress for laws that would make it easier for states to legalize marijuana and decrease penalties for non-violent drug offenders. [Associated Press, Drugpolicy.org]
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Cherry Blossom Race Closures — Police are planning on closing the Memorial Bridge and Memorial Circle to traffic Sunday morning for the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run and 5K. The closure is scheduled to be in place from 5:00 to 11:00 a.m.
The Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is in Richmond today, lobbying legislators to support Sen. Adam Ebbin’s marijuana decriminalization bill.
Ebbin’s bill, SB 686, has been referred to the 15-member Courts of Justice Committee, and if it’s approved would need to be approved by the full Senate before going through the same process in the House of Delegates.
Both houses are controlled by Republicans, which has traditionally been the party opposing marijuana legalization efforts nationwide. For that reason, Ebbin and NORML are targeting decriminalization, instead of NORML’s preferred policy, recreational legalization.
“Decriminalization is the first step in the process of fully legalizing cannabis,” Virginia NORML writes on its website’s section for SB 686. “Virginia is slow to change its laws in general; it often takes several years to make any significant changes, and usually requires support from both Republicans and Democrats. Our goal is to make the simple change to stop charging people with a criminal misdemeanor for simple possession.”
More than 60 marijuana reform advocates converged on the state capital today to discuss the legislation with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. If it passes, Ebbin’s bill would reduce the penalty for marijuana possession from a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail to a $100 citation payable to the state’s Literary Fund. According to Ebbin’s legislation, Virginia currently spends $67 million a year investigating, prosecuting and jailing marijuana offenders.
“Criminalizing marijuana disrupts careers and families resulting in more harm than the drug itself and decriminalization is a commonsense step to allow law enforcement to focus its efforts on serious crimes,” Ebbin said in a press release.
(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), who represents part of Arlington, has proposed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana for personal use.
Ebbin’s bill, SB686, is similar to the marijuana decriminalization statute that went into effect in the District earlier this year. (D.C. has since voted to legalize marijuana.) SB686 changes simple marijuana possession from a crime punishable by a $500 fine, and/or up to 30 days in jail, to a civil infraction — a ticket — with a maximum $100 penalty, payable to the state’s Literary Fund.
The distribution of marijuana would remain a crime, but would be reduced to a lesser misdemeanor for all marijuana quantities less than a pound. Growing up to up to six marijuana plants would be considered personal use and not an intent to distribute.
“I don’t think marijuana decriminalization has ever been introduced in the Virginia Senate,” Ebbin told the TV station. “I think criminalizing marijuana, disrupting careers and families, does more harm than the drug itself does.”
The bill has a co-patron in Del. Kaye Kory, the Falls Church Democrat.
“Marijuana decriminalization is trending across the country and this bill will get us talking about it in Virginia,” Kory told ARLnow.com this afternoon. “The conversation will go back and forth over what steps we want to take and when to take them. There’s no telling how long the process will take, but the important thing is that we’re having the conversation.”
There’s some history of support for marijuana-related reforms among local politicians and politically-active groups. In 2012, then-Del. David Englin (D) proposed studying whether Virginia ABC stores should some day sell marijuana. In April, the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans hosted a forum to discuss marijuana sentencing reform.
Ebbin’s bill will be considered once the Virginia General Assembly convenes in January. With both the House of the Delegates and the state Senate now controlled by Republicans, the bill seemingly faces long odds of passage.
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Pot Group Releases Video for Ebbin — NORML PAC, which is working to legalize marijuana in the U.S., has released a video in support of state Sen. Adam Ebbin’s run for Congress. Ebbin is one of seven candidates campaigning for the Democratic primary on June 10. In addition to marijuana advocates, Ebbin has received endorsements from County Board Chair Jay Fisette, three Arlington School Board members, and the local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Laborers’ International Union of North America. [YouTube]
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Pot Advocates Endorse Ebbin — NORML PAC, a political action committee that supports the legalization of marijuana, has endorsed Democratic state Sen. Adam Ebbin in the race for Congress. “NORML PAC believes strongly that Senator Ebbin has the tenacity, coalition building skills, and political acumen required to help end our country’s destructive war on marijuana consumers,” the group said in a statement. [NORML]
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Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
As more states and localities like D.C. decriminalize or even legalize pot possession, a national dialogue has emerged over lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent marijuana offenders. The AFCYRs are bringing that discussion to Arlington.
“There is an ongoing national discussion about marijuana sentencing reform, and I want to make sure the Republicans are leading the charge,” AFCYR Chairman Matthew Hurtt said in a media advisory. “It’s an issue that can unite members of our community, regardless of party, race or gender, and we look forward to hearing from those actively engaged in this topic.”
The panel discussion will be held at Hard Times Cafe (3028 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon, starting at 7:00 p.m. today (Monday). Panelists include Heritage Foundation legal fellow John Malcom, Families Again Mandatory Minimums counsel Molly Gill and Republican Maryland state senator Chris Shank.
Attendees are asked to RSVP online.
Photo via Facebook
The D.C. council yesterday passed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but so far there are no plans to change marijuana laws or enforcement in Arlington.
The D.C. bill, which is expected to be signed by Mayor Vincent Gray, would make the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine. Under the District’s current laws marijuana possession is a crime, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
In Virginia, state law makes marijuana possession a crime punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense, and up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine for subsequent offenses. There are no proposals in the Virginia General Assembly this year to change that, and police in Arlington County say they have no plans to change the way they enforce the law.
The decriminalization of pot in the District “will have no effect on our policies or procedures,” Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck tells ARLnow.com. “We will continue to enforce all laws in the same manner we currently do.”
In other words, District residents who bring marijuana into Virginia shouldn’t expect any leniency from police, despite the fact that an infraction that could cost less than a parking ticket in D.C. is punishable by jail time in the Commonwealth.
In 2012, Del. David Englin (D), who represented part of Arlington, proposed studying whether Virginia ABC stores should sell marijuana. Englin’s measure failed in committee.