Amid community pressure, Arlington County is taking a closer look at ways to improve safety in Green Valley.
Some residents are pushing for more action from the county on two fronts: dealing with nuisances and more actively policing criminal activity. In response to the mounting concerns, an internal county workgroup is beginning to meet this week to find ways to do just that.
The nuisances are related to drinking and smoking as well as public urination and loud music associated with some of the people who hang out around the John Robinson, Jr. Town Square, neighbors tell ARLnow. The criminal issues relate to gun violence, which some neighbors tie to the unaddressed open-air substance use.
Throughout the day, people can be seen hanging out in the area. Yesterday (Tuesday), for instance, ARLnow observed a handful of people sitting in folding chairs outside of The Shelton, an affordable housing building, while two other groups were congregated in the town square, talking and listening to music.
Neighbors, including Yordanos Woldai, say they don’t have an issue with people hanging out. They just want people not to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana outdoors, urinate in public or play music during quiet hours.
“Having lived in Arlington for such a long time, I am not aware of any other residential neighborhood where this conduct is allowed to happen in plain sight and not be addressed by the police,” Woldai tells ARLnow. “Children have to walk on the streets at times because there is no way to pass and there are broken beer bottles on sidewalks and grass.”
A few of the people hanging out told ARLnow that nearly everyone on the square yesterday likely came from outside Green Valley to this area to be together. Many grew up in the neighborhood but have since moved away.
One man, who appeared to be drinking beer from a plastic cup, put his hand out close to the ground and raised it up slowly to show how much of early childhood, marked in growth spurts, he spent in the neighborhood.
“They feel they are very much part of the community,” Woldai said. “I love the idea that people come to Green Valley to connect with old friends… It’s the illegal activities that are bothersome.”
Woldai addressed the Arlington County Board on Saturday about her concerns and said she had the support of 37 neighbors. This includes Lily Bozhanova, a Bulgarian immigrant who has lived in the area for five years with her family.
“My children are 5 and 7-year-olds. We often go to the spray park there and I sometimes have to explain to my children why they see people smoke or drink plein air. It’s not good but they see it every day and it’s a deterrent for going in the area,” she told ARLnow.
Bozhanova says she tries to avoid the area in the evening and lately Googled whether bullets can pass through brick.
“I shouldn’t be looking up to see whether my house can sustain gunshots. Brick is relatively safe, by the way,” she said.
Although she is grateful for the life she has built, she says, “it’s not exactly the American Dream we were trying to achieve moving here.”
Frank Duncan, a longtime resident of The Shelton (3215 24th Street S.) said he was shot last summer. A relative was also shot not long after.
“That’s the story about the life we live here,” he said.
Still, he said he cannot move away because it will be hard to find space in another low-income apartment building. He says he does what he can to promote safety in part by volunteering as a crossing guard for Drew Elementary School students.
Woldai ties the shootings to the nuisance issues.
“When people know there isn’t really a police presence in a neighborhood where you can drink and smoke marijuana, it attracts more serious crimes,” she said. “That has been a serious concern for residents living near the town square.”
Arlington’s first medical cannabis dispensary is set to open tomorrow in Clarendon.
Beyond/Hello is set to open the county’s inaugural cannabis dispensary on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 2701 Wilson Blvd. The 6,820 square-foot shop with 37 parking spots is located across the street from Whole Foods and next to neighborhood staple Galaxy Hut.
There will be an official ribbon-cutting ceremony this Friday, a company spokesperson told ARLnow.
Beyond/Hello is owned by Florida-based Jushi, which owns nearly 40 dispensaries across a number of different states. This will be Beyond/Hello’s fifth Northern Virginia dispensary, including two Fairfax County locations. The shops on Richmond Highway and near George Mason University both opened last year.
ARLnow first reported a cannabis dispensary was coming to Clarendon back in July. It was initially supposed to open by the end of the year, but that got pushed back by a few weeks due to waiting on county inspections.
It’s moving into a building that Jushi bought for $7 million in late 2021, which formerly housed a Comcast service center. Arlington Independent Media (AIM), which operates radio station WERA 96.7 FM, occupies the other part of the building. Jushi has promised to allow AIM to remain in the building even as expands to a second location in Green Valley.
Metro access, a central location, and a “bustling” neighborhood are among the reasons that Beyond/Hello chose this location for its next Northern Virginia dispensary.
“Just a five-minute walk from the Clarendon Metro Station, Beyond Hello Arlington is located in a bustling part of the city, where patients can easily check out historical sites, hit the town to grab a bite, catch some live music or check out a theatrical performance,” Jushi CEO Jim Cacioppo said in a press release. “This new retail location has ample comfortable seating throughout the store along with standardized tested products for patients. We look forward to continuing to be a good business and community partner in the Commonwealth as well as delivering a retail experience exceeding expectations.”
The presence of parking was also a factor. A company official told ARLnow last summer that most of the other buildings that ownership looked at in Arlington had “zero dedicated parking spots,” while this one had about 40.
The Clarendon location is a big part of Beyond/Hello’s Northern Virginia expansion. The company is one of only four allowed to sell medical cannabis in Virginia and, by law, can only open six stores in the Commonwealth.
Beyond/Hello currently has five dispensaries in the area, with a sixth opening in Woodbridge later this year.
Last summer, a state law went into effect that removed the requirement for medical cannabis patients to register with the Commonwealth in order to purchase cannabis. Now, all patients need is a written certification for a licensed practitioner.
It’s believed that this relaxing of requirements will lead to an increase in medical cannabis sales.
While it’s legal for those over 21 to grow and possess small amounts of cannabis, non-medicinal retail sales remain illegal following last year’s failed legislative efforts. The Virginia General Assembly is likely to consider bills at its upcoming session that could set the stage for legal retail sales of cannabis by this time next year.
A new medical cannabis dispensary coming to Clarendon is delaying its opening to early next year.
Beyond/Hello is hoping to open Arlington’s first medical cannabis dispensary — and its fifth in Northern Virginia — in the “first half of January,” though that depends on county inspections, a spokesperson told ARLnow.
The dispensary at 2701 Wilson Blvd was initially slated to open its doors prior to the end of the year, but that has been slightly delayed.
Florida-based Jushi, which owns Beyond/Hello, bought the building at 2701 Wilson Blvd, across the street from Whole Foods, for $7 million about a year ago. Jushi chose that location because of its central location and 45 dedicated parking spots, an executive told ARLnow over the summer.
The dispensary is moving a space that was formerly a Comcast service center. Another part of the building is occupied by Arlington Independent Media (AIM), which operates radio station WERA 96.7 FM.
The plan is to allow AIM to remain in the building, even as it expands to a satellite location in Green Valley.
Over the last two years, Beyond/Hello has opened locations in Fairfax, Alexandria, Manassas, and Sterling. Another location is coming to Woodbridge sometime next year.
Beyond/Hello is one of four companies allowed to sell medical cannabis in Virginia but is legally limited to opening six stores in the Commonwealth.
This past July, a new state law went into effect that removed the requirement that medical cannabis patients had to register with the Commonwealth in order to purchase cannabis. Now all patients need is a written certification from a licensed practitioner.
It’s legal for those over 21 in Virginia to possess and grow small amounts of cannabis. But recreational sales are still illegal due to the failure of a legislative effort this past year to create infrastructure for retail sales.
For now, retail sales of cannabis are expected to remain illegal in Virginia until 2024 at the earliest.
The first medical cannabis dispensary in Arlington is set to open in Clarendon by the end of the year, coming as state restrictions loosen for medical cannabis.
Beyond/Hello, one of four companies allowed to sell cannabis in Virginia, is opening a dispensary along Clarendon’s main drag of Wilson Blvd. The plan is to open by the end of the year, pending approval from the Virginia Board of Pharmacy, Chief Commercial Director Trent Woloveck told ARLnow.
The company, which is owned by Florida-based Jushi, bought the building at 2701 Wilson Blvd in late 2021, which is located across the street from Whole Foods as well as the parking lot that may be turned into a new development called “Courthouse West“.
The dispensary will move into the space that was formerly a Comcast service center. Construction is in its early stages, Wolveck said, starting with cleaning up the shell of the building.
Arlington Independent Media also occupies space in the building, operating FM station WERA 96.7. Wolveck said the plan is to allow AIM to stay both during and after construction.
This Wilson Blvd building was specifically chosen because of its central location and dedicated parking spots.
“Most properties we looked at in Arlington had zero dedicated parking spaces — this property provides 45,” said Wolveck. “It is also well positioned across the street from a high grossing Whole Foods and in the heart of the Clarendon restaurant and nightlife scene.”
The Clarendon location is part of Beyond/Hello’s larger Northern Virginia expansion. The company already has two dispensaries open in Manassas and Sterling. Two locations in Fairfax County are both set to open this summer, as FFXnow reports, while a Woodbridge one is aiming for early next year. Legally, the company is allowed to operate six dispensaries in Virginia.
All of this is coming on the heels of the state making it easier for patients to obtain medical cannabis. On July 1, a new state law went into effect removing the requirement that patients had to register with the Commonwealth in order to purchase medical cannabis. Now, patients simply need written certification from a licensed practitioner.
Despite partisan rancor on other state issues, the bill had overwhelming bipartisan support.
This loosening of regulations is expected to accelerate Virginia’s medical cannabis industry. Prior to the law going into effect, only about 0.5% of Virginia’s 8.6 million residents were registered medical cannabis patients. Meanwhile, Maryland is at 2.5% and the national average is 2%.
While it is now legal for adults to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana in Virginia, recreational sales remain illegal. A legislative effort to create infrastructure for retail sales and make it legal this year failed in the General Assembly several months ago.
For now, general retail cannabis sales won’t be allowed in Virginia until Jan. 1, 2024.
Virginians are going to have to wait until next year to see any further movement on cannabis regulation and legalization of retail sales.
A bill — SB 591 — that would have regulated cannabis products shapes, banned Delta-8, increased penalties for possessing more than the legal limit, and reclassified many CBD products as marijuana was effectively killed in the Virginia Senate yesterday (April 27) with a bipartisan vote.
It was close to a year ago that marijuana first became legal in the Commonwealth. At the forefront of this push was Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-39), who represents a portion of Arlington.
While the achievement was celebrated by advocates, there remains much to be figured out. Notably, there’s still no legal retail market and regulation remains incomplete.
One bill that would have contributed to regulating marijuana products was SB 591. When it was first introduced back in January, it initially only dealt with the sale of cannabis products in shapes that could appeal to children — like candy, fruit, or animals. Despite it being introduced by a Republican, Ebbin and other local Democrats initially supported it.
“It was the right thing to do,” Ebbin tells ARLnow.
But a series of amendments from Governor Glenn Youngkin significantly altered the bill, adding in provisions about CBD products, Delta-8, and making possession over the legal limit a crime rather than a civil infraction.
“The governor’s amendments were ill-constructed, poorly thought out, and left lots of loopholes,” Ebbin says. “The original bill was better.”
The state Senator says the modified legislation “left a door open” for production of other synthetic marijuana products besides Delta-8, allowed for the removal of THC limits on packaging, and re-criminalized possession of over an ounce.
“The government’s proposed penalties for personal possession of two ounces of marijuana were more punitive than the laws that were in place prior to Virginia’s enactment of decriminalization in 2020,” Ebbin says.
SB 591 had a bit of a unique journey. The original bill, introduced by a Republican, was passed unanimously in the Senate and with very limited opposition in the House of Delegates. It was then sent to Governor Youngkin’s desk, who changed it by adding those amendments.
It was, then, sent back to the Senate yesterday for a vote where it was deadlocked with 20 yeas and 20 nays. However, Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears (R) broke the tie, essentially going against the Governor from her own party.
Whoa. Sears breaks tie with the Democrats to take marijuana bill by for the day (killing Governor's recommendations). There are no further meetings of the Rehab committee, and this prevents the Governor from being able to sign the bill in its original form either. pic.twitter.com/O5O6MSOtBV
— VAPLAN (@vaplan2018) April 27, 2022
With the bill being referred back to the committee, both the Governor’s amendments and the original bill are dead and any related legislation will have to wait until at least next year to be considered again for enactment.
“Well, it’s disappointing,” says Ebbin. “People need to be aware of what they are buying.”
This is the second time in just the last couple of months that a bill aimed at creating infrastructure for a legal cannabis retail market in Virginia was voted down.
Ebbin’s own SB 391 would have allowed existing medical dispensaries to start selling retail cannabis starting in September. While it passed the Democratic-controlled Senate, the Republican-controlled House of Delegates pushed the decision until next year.
For the moment, the Cannabis Oversight Commission — for which Ebbin is Chair — will continue to review the two bills with the hope that a consensus can be built with how best to move forward on marijuana legislation in Virginia next year.
While Ebbin remains hopeful that 2023 will bring cannabis retail sales and further market regulation, he’s a bit skeptical.
“I’ve learned not to be overly optimistic in this field,” he says. “This is a product that’s now legal for adults 21 and older. So, it’s in our best interest to make sure this is a tested, regulated product.”
No Mardi Gras Parade Today — Clarendon will not be hosting a Mardi Gras parade this year. What was formerly an annual tradition remains on hold, perhaps permanently. The last parade was held in 2018.
Retail Rents Rising on the Pike — “Arlington economic-development officials say they will assist where possible, but in many cases, small-business owners wishing to stay in the corridor will have to do the hunting on their own… The arrival of Amazon not far down the road in the Pentagon City area is just one factor that is impacting rents in the Columbia Pike corridor, once known as a low-cost alternative to Arlington’s Metro corridors.” [Sun Gazette]
Affordable Housing Buy Nearby — “A 14-story Arlandria apartment complex has been acquired by the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation, the latest move in an effort to preserve affordable housing in an area facing significant development pressure. AHDC recently announced that it bought the Park Vue of Alexandria apartments from Florida-based ZRS Management with support of $51.4 million from the $2 billion Amazon Housing Equity Fund.” [ALXnow, Twitter]
Va. Weed Bill Goes Up in Smoke — “Republican members of Virginia’s House of Delegates on Monday voted down a bill that would have permitted legal sales of marijuana later this year, delaying any movement on the issue until at least mid- or late-2023 — if not even later than that. The party-line 5-3 vote in the House’s General Laws Subcommittee dashed the hopes of many Democrats and marijuana legalization advocates.” [DCist]
It’s Fat Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day today, the first day of March and the last day before Lent. High of 57 and low of 32. Sunrise at 6:42 am and sunset at 6:02 pm. [Weather.gov]
This afternoon near the Rosslyn Metro station, Bob Marley was playing and a flag featuring a joint and the words “Come and Take It” was flying.
The event was the legalization of marijuana in Virginia and a giveaway that attracted a line of some 100 people.
Those in line were waiting to receive six marijuana plant seeds — tokens to commemorate the first day of legalized cannabis possession on this side of the Potomac River. The seeds are from Virginia Marijuana Justice, an advocacy group celebrating legalization today with “The Great Commonwealth Cannabis Seed Share.”
Virginians 21 and older can now possess, consume and grow small amounts of the plant, but unless a doctor has signed off on a prescription, there’s no legal way to buy it, the Virginia Mercury reports. Lawmakers aim to begin recreational retail sales in 2024, giving the Commonwealth three years to establish a Virginia Cannabis Control Authority to regulate the market.
Outside the Rosslyn Metro station was one of four locations where volunteers with VAMJ gave out seeds. The Arlington seed share lasted from 12-2 p.m. and among the four sites, more than 20,000 seeds were distributed, said organizer Adam Eidinger.
“We are very happy on this historic day,” Eidinger said. “All four locations in Virginia had long lines and are giving away all the seeds we raised. Authorities were only concerned with large numbers of people, not the cannabis.”
The organization’s celebration started last night on the Key Bridge.
Cannabis prohibition in Virginia ends in about 15 minutes! We're on the Key Bridge to celebrate! pic.twitter.com/vcZRxEahIf
— Virginia Marijuana Justice (@VAMJ2019) July 1, 2021
Chinara and Maurice, who only gave their first name, were among the crowd standing in line this afternoon.
Maurice said he was there “to partake in this transition that’s occurring,” saying he is glad “there is more acceptance for things that are natural.”
Despite the crowd’s size, Chinara said the line moved quickly. The R&B and Neo Soul singer-songwriter said she appreciates marijuana because “it makes me feel like I’m able to interact more smoothly with people.”
VAMJ gave out the seeds to people 21 and older with a valid ID. Organizers reminded participants to be patient, let senior citizens go first in line and make friends. They also reminded people that the law only permits four plants in a home.
The giveaway finished about 45 minutes before the thunderstorms rolled in.
Although the mood this afternoon was joyous, advocates say work remains to be done.
Chelsea Higgs Wise, the leader of a parallel Virginia-based group, Marijuana Justice, said the new law has a lot of gaps and she is skeptical that Black and Brown people will actually be treated equally for possessing the plant.
Her group is advocating for next year’s legislature to “repeal, repair and [make] reparations.” It has formed a Legalize It Right coalition to discuss the new Virginian law and how to tackle these goals.
Specifically, the group wants the legislature to remove an open container law that punishes people for possessing the plant in anything but the original manufacturers’ container. The group wants to see public consumption legalized — right now Virginians can only partake at home — and zero tolerance policies on college and university campuses removed.
In addition, Marijuana Justice wants records for marijuana-related crimes expunged and reparations for people arrested and convicted for committing such crimes.
VAMJ also wrote in a blog post that the fight is not over.
“Just because you can grow your own cannabis, doesn’t mean that the war on drugs is won,” the post said. “We still have a lot of work to do to ensure not only local legalization, but legalization across the country, to benefit all interested parties. There are still friends and family members in jail for cannabis in Virginia. We need to demand their immediate release.”
It’s July 1, the date in which new state legislation goes into effect in Virginia.
The new laws ban balloon launches, extend for one year the ability of restaurant to offer to-go alcoholic beverages, and require drivers to maintain at least three feet of distance when passing cyclists. But perhaps the most high-profile legislation is the legalization of marijuana in the Commonwealth.
More from the Virginia Mercury:
As of today, marijuana is legal for adults 21 and older to possess, consume and grow in Virginia. But unless a doctor has signed off on a prescription, there’s no legal way to buy it.
Lawmakers have set a 2024 target to begin retail sales to recreational users, a runway the legislation’s authors say is necessary to establish the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority, which will regulate the new market.
But some legalization advocates are hoping the General Assembly will agree to speed up that time frame.
“Our priority in the 2022 legislative session is to expedite retail access for adult consumers, both through already operational medical dispensaries and by moving up the date VCCA can begin issuing new licenses,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML.
More than 80% of respondents to an ARLnow poll earlier this year said they support the legalization of marijuana. And more than half of respondents to a subsequent poll said they “definitely” or “maybe” will partake in legal weed.
But we’re wondering whether the enactment of the new law today changes anything for anybody. Will legalization actually result in you doing something you didn’t do before?
Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash
Our Arlington Agenda post is back for the first time since the pandemic started.
As a reminder: Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like your event considered, fill out the event submission form to submit it to our event calendar.
Monday, May 3
Patterns at Gallery Underground
Shops at Crystal City, 2100 Crystal Drive
Gallery Underground in May presents in the Focus Gallery, Patterns: an all-member show of works highlighting pattern and texture. Media used in the display include oil, acrylic, pastel, water media, sculpture, glass, ceramics, wood and metalwork.
Tuesday, May 4
Protecting What You Build: Intellectual Property as the Entrepreneur’s Core Asset
Virtually via Zoom
Time: Noon-2 p.m.
This free session hosted by the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property (CPIP) at GMU Law School will guide attendees through types of intellectual property and how experienced entrepreneurs rely on them to implement their visions.
Wednesday, May 5
Legislative Update for Landlords in NOVA*
Virtually via Zoom
Time: 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
This webinar will review all Virginia laws going into effect on July 1, 2021, ensuring landlords understand new laws and know they are operating within the law — particularly regarding the legalization of marijuana.
Thursday, May 6
Lunch with a Librarian: Virtual Book Buzz
Virtually via Zoom
Time: Noon-12:30 p.m.
Drop in our monthly 30-minute book buzz with local librarians, with library staff and the public swapping book recommendations.
Friday, May 7
Second Anniversary Fundraising Event
Troy’s Italian Kitchen (2710 Washington Blvd)
Time: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Troy’s Italian Kitchen is celebrating its two-year anniversary with a fundraiser to give back to the community. A portion of proceeds on Friday will go to the Arlington Food Assistance Center and the Lyon Park Community Center.
5K Fridays: The Great Inflatable Race
Courtyard Green (2121 Crystal Drive)
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Pacers and the National Landing BID’s annual 5K series returns this Friday with a wacky summer inflatable attire theme. Registration is limited to 250 participants, so make prospective runners should sign-up in advance.
*Denotes featured (sponsored) event.
Last week the Virginia General Assembly approved a marijuana legalization law that will take effect this summer.
Yes, come July 1, you can legally possess, cultivate and share small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Regulated, commercial sales of cannabis products are not set to take place in Virginia until 2024 under the legislation.
When we asked ARLnow readers what you thought about marijuana legalization in the Commonwealth, about 85% of respondents said they supported it, either this summer or a few years from now, as originally proposed. (Gov. Ralph Northam sent the bill back to the General Assembly to move up the timeline for legalization to July.)
Given the support for legalization, we were wondering how many readers were actually planning to partake in the newly-legal weed.
Photo by Rick Proctor on Unsplash
Gov. Ralph Northam announced this morning a proposal to move up the legalization of marijuana in Virginia to this summer.
A legalization bill championed by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), who represents part of Arlington, passed the General Assembly earlier this year. But it called for legalization of recreational marijuana possession and cultivation on Jan. 1, 2024.
Northam is sending the bill back to the state legislature to consider a July 1, 2021 implementation.
“Governor Ralph Northam today proposed moving up the legalization of simple possession of marijuana to July 1, 2021, nearly three years sooner than previously planned,” said a press release. “The Governor also announced he is proposing changes that advance public health protections, set clear expectations for labor protections in the cannabis industry, and begin to seal criminal records [of past marijuana convictions] immediately.”
Ebbin told news outlets he thinks the sped-up timeline will be approved.
“My colleagues and I worked closely with Governor Northam to ensure this bill prioritizes public health and social equity,” Ebbin said in a press release from the governor’s office. “I look forward to adopting these amendments and passing this important legislation into law.”
While small-scale marijuana possession was decriminalized in Virginia last year, Northam said those facing fines under the new statute are disproportionately Black.
“Virginia’s communities of color deserve equity — and that means taking action now to end the disproportionate fines, arrests, and convictions of marijuana offenses,” Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax said in the press release.
The bill allows people 21 and over to “legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis, without intent to distribute,” and will also “allow households to grow up to four plants… out of sight from public view, and out of range of individuals under the age of 21.”
Smoking marijuana while driving and possession of it on school grounds will remain illegal.
Previous ARLnow polls revealed strong local support for marijuana decriminalization. When Ebbin proposed it in 2016, nearly 80% of poll respondents said they supported decriminalization. In 2019, when then-candidate Parisa Dehghani-Tafti pledged not to prosecute simple marijuana possession charges as Commonwealth’s Attorney, more than 75% of poll respondents said they supported that.
Legalization obviously goes beyond decriminalization, however, and there are some who believe the risks associated with marijuana use call for something less than full legalization. There are also some who think Virginia should take more time to legalize weed, in order to allow a more orderly establishment of a statewide marijuana industry.
Still, Northam’s changes to the legalization bill reportedly have support on both sides of the aisle and are expected to pass
What do you think?
Photo by Roberto Valdivia/Unsplash