Riding the high, so to speak, of Colorado's legalization of the recreational use of cannabis, six members of the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, spoke before the Fairfax County legislative delegation over the weekend.
In the video above, you can hear murmurs in the crowd when the topic is first broached.
"I've always thought marijuana prohibition was foolish, but I never really thought about fighting it," said Margaret Boyne, a retired IT consultant. "After all, I'm white. I'm middle-aged. Suburban. I will always be able to buy pot from friends who work on the Hill, or at State or at any of several DC law firms. I really don't have any personal stake in this debate."
Boyne got a chuckle when she explained that 1 gram of pot equals about 1 tablespoon for the state lawmakers who aren't familiar. Statistically, she said, at least one of the state delegates and senators was a casual pot smoker.
She told a story of a sister-in-law and a friend of the family, both of whom have Parkinson's disease. The illness can cause debilitating muscle cramps, insomnia and loss of appetite, among other things.
Boyne said her sister-in-law lives in Colorado, where she is able to use pot to enjoy her life as a successful artist. But the family friend lives in Arlington, and he's terrified to try it because marijuana use, even medicinal, is still illegal in Virginia.
Several stories followed.
The marijuana advocates argued that keeping pot criminal has a disproportionate affect on minorities and that it weighs down law enforcement and judicial dockets, taking time and resources away from "real crimes."
"The only true harm from the use of marijuana occurs when you get caught with marijuana," said Duane Ludwig, an MIT graduate and aerospace engineer who lives in the Falls Church area.
They also argued that marijuana laws perpetuate a black market that gives children easier access to drugs.
"Drug dealers do not check IDs. But ABCs and responsible businesses do," said Frederick Cassiday.
Ludwig said the group proposed decriminalization — perhaps making a marijuana possession charge comparable to a parking ticket — as a "near-term compromise."
Boyne asked lawmakers to consider the immediate decriminalization of marijuana, followed by the eventual legalization.
Andy Ludwig said he had many friends who have recently come back from Iraq and Afghanistan and that they had found marijuana was the best treatment for PTSD, thanks to fewer bad side effects.
"When you can get returning soldiers to relax, or even laugh — it's darn close to a miracle," he said. "… So, in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, who grew it, Virginia should take steps to re-legalize marijuana."
The video above was distributed by the local NORML chapter.
What do you think? Should Virginia decriminalize marijuana? Is medicinal marijuana acceptable under any circumstance? Tell us in the comments below.