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
Body Found in Metro Tunnel Last Year — “On April 2, 2020, a report said, a person jumped on top of a Yellow Line train at L’Enfant Plaza station. A track inspector found the person’s body three days later between the Pentagon and Pentagon City stations in Arlington, Va.” [Washington Post, WMSC]
Runway Reconstruction for DCA — “Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $13,715,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded to four airports… [the] Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority will receive a grant of $1,700,000 to go toward a runway reconstruction at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.” [Press Release]
Theme Announced for County Fair — “We are officially 50 days away from the Arlington County Fair! This year’s theme is… *drum roll please*… NIGHTS, LIGHTS, AND BITES! We are so excited for all the colorful nights, bright lights, and yummy bites at this year’s Fair, and we can’t wait to see you there!” [Twitter]
VHC Gets Grant for Remote OB Appointments — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has received a $38,000 grant from the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation (JBLF) for the pilot of the Hospital’s OB Connect program, which provides patients with the flexibility to receive prenatal care from home.” [Press Release]
Robbery at Pentagon City Mall — “At approximately 9:30 p.m. on June 25, police were dispatched to the late report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the employee was assisting the suspect when he began to give her commands and directed her to open the display cases and place merchandise into his bag. The suspect then ordered the employee into the back of the store until he left the business.” [ACPD]
Restaurant T0-Go Drink Changes Extended — “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurants were shuttered, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) created a safe and secure way for restaurants to offer cocktails to go with a meal. The General Assembly has now continued this practice in statute for one year. In addition, restaurants who are delivering wine and beer can continue to do so for another year.” [Zebra]
Outdoor Balloon Launches Banned — “The revised law, sponsored by Del. Nancy Guy (D-Virginia Beach), takes effect on July 1, and will prohibit the intentional releasing, discarding, or causing to be released any balloon outdoors. Violators are liable for a civil penalty of $25 per balloon. The bill provides that if a person under the age of 16 releases a balloon at the instruction of an adult, the adult shall be liable for the civil penalty.” [Sun Gazette]
Winning Lottery Ticket Sold in Crystal City — “A Maryland man walked away with the top prize in the Virginia Lottery’s Double Dollar Crossword, after the ticket from ann Arlington convenience store turned out to be a winner.
Silver Spring resident Elvis Umana Hernandez works in construction and carpentry. He recently bought the winning ticket worth $250,000 during a visit to the 7-Eleven at 1500 S. Fern St.” [Patch]
‘Walking Marine’ Walks Through Arlington — “Terry ‘The Walking Marine’ Sharpe has been walking through Arlington today and giving out toy soldiers to raise awareness of veteran suicide.” [Twitter]
Goldman Sachs Investing in Local Startup — “Arlington startup MotoRefi, whose platform aims to make refinancing car loans easier for consumers, is closing in on an eight-figure round involving a blue-chip investor. The company is poised to raise about $45 million in new funding, the lion’s share of which comes from Goldman Sachs, according to sources familiar with the deal.” [Washington Business Journal]
Catholic Diocese Lifts Restrictions — “The Catholic diocese in Arlington, Virginia, has lifted COVID-19 restrictions for masses and other activities. Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge said in a video message released Tuesday, ‘We can once again celebrate as a community, without the need for social distancing or capacity limits.’ People who are not vaccinated are ‘encouraged to wear a mask for the time being,’ the bishop said.” [WTOP]
ACFD Helps Battle Fairfax House Fire — “The Fairfax County and Arlington fire departments also responded to a house fire in the 7700 block of Virginia Lane in Falls Church last night. A cause and estimate of damages have not been announced yet, but the blaze did not result in any reported injuries.” [Tysons Reporter]
Affordable Housing Bill Takes Effect July 1 — “Thanks to HB 2046 from Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, beginning on July 1 localities across Virginia will no longer be allowed to deny building permits to projects ‘because the housing development contains or is expected to contain affordable housing units occupied or intended for occupancy by families or individuals with incomes at or below 80% of the median income of the area.'” [GGWash]
Reminder: We’re Taking The Day Off — ARLnow’s staff has been working hard during the pandemic and we’re getting the day off to enjoy a four-day Memorial Day weekend. As such, except in the event of breaking news, we will not be publishing today.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
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.
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
Summer Camp Registration Woes — “There were technical problems with the online registration system for Arlington Dept. of Parks and Rec summer camps this morning, readers tell ARLnow. From a parks dept. spokesperson: ‘Our online registration system experienced some technical issues this morning during the first hour of registration, but it was fixed by approximately 8:05am. By noon, over 8,300 registrations were completed.'” [Twitter]
Reminder: HQ2 Phase 2 Meeting Tonight — “The County is kicking off a public review process for the proposed next phase of Amazon’s HQ2. Thursday at 6:30 p.m. join an virtual community meeting to learn more about the plan, how the review process works, and when you can share feedback.” [Twitter, Arlington County]
‘Our Revolution’ Joins Civic Federation — “You say you want a revolution? Upon further review, the Arlington County Civic Federation has decided… it does! At the organization’s March 13 meeting, a vote on the membership application of the left-leaning political group Our Revolution Arlington came up for consideration by federation delegates. The final vote was 40 to approve, 11 to reject, eight abstentions and one non-response.” [Sun Gazette]
New GOP Entrant in Delegate Race — “The district trends Democratic in the same way Chicago winters trend cold, but a Republican has stepped up with plans to contest the 45th House of Delegates district in November. J.D. Maddox, a small-business owner and former Central Intelligence Agency official, announced March 23 he planned to seek the seat currently held by Del. Mark Levine, a Democrat.” [Sun Gazette, ALXnow]
Death Penalty Repealed in Va. — “Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday signed legislation to officially abolish the death penalty in Virginia, making it the first Southern state to ban capital punishment. ‘Justice and punishment are not always the same thing, that is too clearly evident in 400 years of the death penalty in Virginia,’ Northam, a Democrat, said during remarks ahead of signing the legislation, saying that it is both the right and the moral thing to do.” [NBC News, Commonwealth of Virginia]
The Virginia General Assembly official adjourned on Monday (March 1), wrapping up a significant legislative session.
After years in the legislative minority, Democrats currently hold all the House of Delegates, the state Senate, and the governorship.
This has allowed for a number of progressive-minded bills that have garnered both regional and national attention to pass , including abolishing the death penalty and legalizing recreational marijuana.
The General Assembly also passed a budget.
Bills that have moved through both the House of Delegates and the Senate will now go to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk.
It’s expected he will sign most — if not all — of the legislation by March 31, 11:59 p.m deadline.
All of Arlington’s lawmakers are Democrats, which led to high hopes that a number of proposed pieces of legislation would pass. This proved to be true.
Here are a few notables:
- HB 2131 — Introduced by Del. Alfonso Lopez, representing the 49th District, the bill allows greater input from localities about what businesses are granted liquor licenses by the Virginia ABC. It also expands the definition of “criminal blight,” making it easier for a license to be denied in cases of criminal activity. The bill was inspired by the former Columbia Pike business Purple Ethiopian Restaurant & Lounge.
- HB 2123 — Also from Del. Lopez, this bill allows students access to state financial aid and grants no matter their citizenship or immigration status as long as Virginia is their permanent home. While it passed the House relatively easily, it barely passed the Senate with only a two vote margin.
- HB 1854 — Passed last month, this legislation first introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) allows Arlington County to rename the portion of U.S. Route 29, otherwise known as “Lee Highway,” within its boundaries. While a work group initially recommended the road to be renamed “Loving Avenue,” this is unlikely to happen due to objections from the family.
- SB 1220 — The bill repeals requirements that state mental health facilities to report the immigration status of patients when admitted. If the person is an undocumented, the United States immigration office had to be notified. This requirement discouraged some to seek mental health care. It was introduced by Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31).
- HB 1911 — This bill from Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) removes the requirement for a corroborating witness for a no-fault divorce to be granted.
- HB 2081 — Introduced by Del. Mark Levine (D-45), the bill bans guns from being within 40 feet of a polling place or meeting place of a local electoral board. The only exceptions are law enforcement, a licensed armed security officer, or if a person’s private property lies within 40 feet of these locations. It passed the Senate by a relatively thin margin of only three votes.
- SJ 270 — This Constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30) repeals the prohibition on same-sex marriage in Virginia. While the ban was technically not enforceable because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling allowing same-sex marriage, it remained a goal of the Ebbin to have it amended. This legislation received national attention, particularly due to Ebbin’s status as Virginia’s first openly LGBTQ legislator.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Track Team Denied Trip to State Tourney — “High-school track and field competitors from across the commonwealth’s largest jurisdictions will descend on Virginia Beach March 1 for the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 boys and girls indoor state-championship meets. But Arlington athletes will not be among them. County school leaders have denied permission for teams to make the trip, citing health concerns about the ongoing high level of COVID infection in that part of Virginia and other factors.” [InsideNova]
County Employees Getting Vaccinated — “Arlington government leaders have decided that the entire county-government workforce qualifies as essential for ‘continuity of government,’ which bumps them ahead of several other groups as well as the general public in COVID-vaccination priority. County-government officials last week confirmed to the Sun Gazette that its entire workforce will be part of Virginia’s ‘Group 1b,’ placing them ahead of approximately 50 percent of the state’s population.” [Sun Gazette]
HQ2 Sparks Park Debate — “[Nearby residents] worry even the large parks Amazon is promising will feel more like playgrounds for the company’s workers than community assets, pressing Arlington County officials to invest and ensure public ownership of green space in the area. And in a section of Arlington where some neighborhood groups have raised persistent complaints about a lack of community parks over the years, the issue seems certain to dominate debates about development for the foreseeable future.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Food Biz Profiled — From the Ballston Business Improvement District: “After years of learning and cooking with their families, Andrea and Bryant created Bee J’s Cookies in April 2020 to share their gift with others.” [Twitter]
Arlington Org Helped Thousands with Food Needs — “AHC Inc., a premier provider of affordable housing communities in metro D.C., sprang into action last spring to help residents suffering from the effects of the pandemic. In 2020, AHC’s Resident Services team with support from the property management arm, AHC Management, has provided substantial food and financial assistance to more than 3,000 families in Maryland and Virginia.” [AHC Inc.]
‘Cyber Flashing’ Bill Killed — “Fear not, creepy Virginia dudes — you can still legally send an unsolicited picture of your genitals to people. For now, at least. A bill that would ban cyber-flashing in Virginia was killed last Wednesday. Cyber-flashing is when someone sends unsolicited explicit photos to another person, and the bill proposed to make it a misdemeanor.” [Washingtonian, Virginia Mercury]
Passed Virginia legislation allows Arlington County to rename Lee Highway, but it’s unlikely to be “Loving Avenue.”
Yesterday (Feb. 23), HB 1854 passed the Virginia State Senate after passing through the House of Delegates late last month. The bill now goes to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature, which will officially codify it.
The bill specifically authorizes the Arlington County Board to name the section of U.S. Route 29, known for decades as “Lee Highway,” located within its boundaries.
However, it’s unlikely to be renamed Loving Avenue in honor of the Virginia couple whose fight to get married went to the U.S. Supreme Court despite the recommendation of the Lee Highway Alliance work group in December..
This is due to the family’s objection, says Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. The Loving family has reiterated that the couple was extremely private and would not want a road named after them.
“I’m saddened but understanding that [the family] is strongly opposed to renaming [Route 29] in honor of their parents and grandparents,” she tells ARLnow. “Privacy is a prevailing value for them.”
Late last year, a task force put together by the Lee Highway Alliance recommended renaming Arlington’s section of Route 29 to Loving Avenue. However, they also suggested four alternatives: John M. Langston Boulevard, Ella Baker Boulevard, Dr. Edward T. Morton Avenue, and Main Street.
Ginger Brown, Executive Director for the Lee Highway Alliance, tells ARLnow that Langston Blvd is the “strong second” choice.
Cristol noted that there remains some follow-up to be done with the Loving family, but at this point, naming Route 29 in Arlington after Mildred and Richard Loving isn’t likely.
“At some point, I’ll have to take a vote on this,” she says. “With what the family has said, we know that it would be hurtful for them. It would be hard for me to vote for that.”
Either way, HB 1854 — first introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) — will allow the renaming, though it only applies to Route 29 in Arlington.
The bill notes that while the Virginia Department of Transportation will place and maintain the appropriate signage, the county has to pay for that signage.
Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said the legislation is a “shared priority” at yesterday’s Board meeting.
“We are enthusiastic about the success of Del. Sullivan’s bill, and the County continues to work with our regional partners to seek a regionally consistent name for Lee Highway,” de Ferranti wrote in a statement to ARLnow. “The legislature advancing this bill to the Governor is an important tool now available to Arlington County in the renaming of Lee Highway and we will continue to seek a common name with our neighboring jurisdictions.”
Cristol says the timeline for the change is being coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions that the east-west artery also runs through, including Falls Church, Fairfax City, and Fairfax County.
“We have a shared interest in settling on the same name, for obvious reasons,” she says.
Vaccine Registration Transfer Still in Progress — “We are aware that many Arlington residents who preregistered through the County system are unable to find themselves in the ‘Check the List’ feature. Data migration is continuing throughout the week and it may take several more days for your name to appear in the centralized system.” [Arlington County]
No Rolling Stops for Va. Cyclists Yet — “The Virginia Senate on Wednesday sidelined a proposal that would have allowed bicyclists to yield instead of halt at stop signs. Instead, lawmakers voted to commission a police study of the rule as enacted in other states. They also voted to require drivers to change lanes when passing bicyclists if three feet of distance isn’t possible and to allow two cyclists to ride side by side in a lane.” [Washington Post]
County Offering Emergency Training in Spanish — “To ensure a more equitable, culturally competent response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies, the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management and Arlington CERT are launching their first-ever Spanish-language Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteer training.” [Arlington County]
First Non-Airline Lounge Coming to DCA — “A lot is changing at Reagan National Airport, and one of the new additions will be an American Express Centurion passenger lounge, the first non-airline passenger lounge at the airport. Reagan National will be the 16th U.S. airport to have a Centurion Lounge. The 11,500-square-foot lounge will open by the end of 2022.” [WTOP]
Gate 35X Replacement Opening Soon — “Airport officials have long planned to replace the 35X bussing system with a proper 14-gate concourse. So here’s some good news: looks like it will happen sooner rather than later. Airline Weekly reports that the American Airlines concourse will open three months earlier than anticipated. Turns out that the decline in air traffic during the pandemic helped accelerated construction work. It’s now slated to open as soon as April 20.” [Washingtonian]
GoTab Continues on Growth Path — “Industry-leading restaurant commerce platform GoTab has appointed sales and hospitality technology veteran John Martin as the company’s new Chief Revenue Officer. With over 30+ years of experience working with both brick-and-mortar restaurants and food technology systems, Martin has been a force in helping hyper growth startups with go-to-market strategy as well as helping CEOs develop approaches to accelerate sales and launch new products.” [Press Release]
Poems on ART Buses — “This year’s Moving Words Adult Competition 2021 Six winning poems were selected from 211 poems by this year’s judge, Arlington’s 2nd Poet Laureate Holly Karapetkova, who also has a poem on display. View the poems below and on Arlington’s ART buses from February through September 2021.” [Arlington Arts]
Beyer Gets Out-of-This-World Chairmanship — “Late last week, Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology elected Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) to serve as Chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics for the 117th Congress.” [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf