A coalition of Virginia substance abuse prevention professionals, health and safety advocates, and representatives of state law enforcement hosted a virtual press conference announcing the launch of their combined opposition to an effort to commercialize marijuana in this year’s legislative session.
“The push to commercialize marijuana in Virginia is being presented as a move for social justice, but no one should be fooled by this bait and switch tactic that is being used by the for-profit marijuana industry,” said Will Jones, MPA, Communications and Community Outreach Associate for Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). “In the states that have gone down this path, people of color who were told they would be the benefactors find themselves frozen out of the overwhelmingly white-owned industry while their communities are disproportionately populated with marijuana storefronts, leading to increases in substance abuse. This is not social justice.”
“Evidence-based research shows us there are a number of long & short terms medical, social, familial, occupational, educational, safety risks from marijuana use,” said Mary Crozier, Immediate Past President of Community Coalitions of Virginia (CCoVA). “We are troubled by a recent national survey that shows an increase in adolescent marijuana usage during the pandemic accompanied by inaccessible counseling resources. Now is not the time to legalize marijuana in Virginia due to the pandemic, recession, and decriminalization has yet to be fully enacted.”
“There is a significant gap between the science and public understanding surrounding the risks of marijuana use,” said Dr. James Avery, Virginia Co-State Director of the American Academy of Medical Ethics. “Given what we know from the existing evidence, marijuana use is not safe for young people under the age of 25 and legalization will bring about increases in emergency room visits as well as instances of drugged driving car crashes in Virginia.”
“There are many false narratives abounding in this debate that involves law enforcement and marijuana, said John Jones, Executive Director of the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association. “Marijuana law enforcement barely registers as a dent in state law enforcement resources and time. Furthermore, it’s simply false to assume that our jails are full of individuals who are were arrested for marijuana possession only. Law enforcement officers are incredibly considered about how legalization will affect impaired driving in Virginia. How many people will get hurt or die on our highways as a result?”
A recorded copy of the virtual press conference is available to view here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwFr_G5QdTo&feature=youtu.be