Press Release: Virginia Marijuana Justice Wants Gov. Northam to Release Cannabis Prisoners


For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Contact: RachelRamone Donlan
(339) 225-2855, Rachel@VAMJ.org

Virginia Marijuana Justice Wants Gov. Northam to Release Cannabis Prisoners

Group Releases Letter to Governor Same Day it Launches Clemency Call-a-Thon
VAMJ Marked First Day of Legalization by Handing out 20,000+ Cannabis Seeds

RICHMOND — Virginia Marijuana Justice (VAMJ), the cannabis legalization group that handed out more than 20,000 seeds to thousands of Virginians around the state to mark the July 1 end of prohibition, is launching an effort to press Gov. Ralph Northam to release nonviolent cannabis “offenders” from prisons during the final months of his administration.

“We want to know when nonviolent cannabis ‘offenders’ will be released from prison,” said Lennice Werth, co-founder of VAMJ. “Although we are very pleased to see that clemency for nonviolent cannabis ‘offenders’ has made it into the law, we still have not yet seen our friends return home. They should not have to suffer in jail, waiting and being punished like a criminal.”

In the letter sent Monday to Gov. Northam, the group thanked him for his important work reforming marijuana laws that, “for years, have hurt cannabis consumers and have torn families apart for a victimless and nonviolent act,” but emphasized there is much more he must do right now.

The group wrote in its letter to Gov. Northam, “We do, of course, want to see the law go into full effect and for the entire community to benefit from your work. It is a significant part of your legacy as governor.“

VAMJ is waiting to hear back from Gov. Northam, but in the meantime the group began an outreach effort aimed directly at Gov. Northam to drive home the point they intend to see this through. From “High Noon to 4:20 PM” today (Thursday) VAMJ will call into Gov. Northam’s office to urge him to free the nonviolent incarcerated men and women, who never deserved to be behind bars in the first place. Future action to help persuade the governor to do the right thing is under consideration.

VAMJ is politely but adamantly insisting that Gov. Northam explain what his plan is for emptying the prisons of cannabis users, freeing them as well as the taxpayers of Virginia, who pay to house inmates that have not committed a crime under the new law.

Even President Biden announced this week that the federal government has begun the process of clemency for those prisoners of the failed drug war that were released to home confinement during the pandemic. There is no reason Gov. Northam can’t do the same.

“Before we start making money off of legal marijuana, let’s free our cannabis prisoners,” said Michael Krawitz, co-founder of VAMJ and U.S. military veteran. “The ultimate insult is to be in prison for something that people on the outside are doing legally.”

Krawitz noted, “Veterans use cannabis to deal with post-traumatic stress when they return home. Twenty-two veterans each day commit suicide from the stress. We ask that they please be released from prison, as promised, and allow them to heal.”

VAMJ co-founder Werth added, “Minorities are disproportionately targeted by the propaganda-driven War on Drugs. Now is the time to release them from jail. Thousands of Virginians all around the state will celebrate to be reunited with men and women that are husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers and friends.”

Cannabis has been legalized for home cultivation and possession in Virginia, and a clemency provision was written into the law to allow the release of nonviolent cannabis “offenders.” Yet many good people of Virginia remain incarcerated.

“It’s time to release nonviolent cannabis prisoners from the shackles of the failed and malevolent War on Drugs, and we must do the same for anyone that has been sent back to prison for simply testing positive for cannabis,” Werth said.

VAMJ is urging its volunteers and supporters to reach out to President Biden and the Department of Justice to urge the federal government to speed up its timeline for clemency for nonviolent cannabis prisoners in federal lockups.

VAMJ volunteers and supporters plan to attend the National Mobilization to Legalize Cannabis, organized by flagship group District of Columbia Marijuana Justice (DCMJ), on Sept. 28 at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

ABOUT DC MARIJUANA JUSTICE AND FOUNDING OF VAMJ AND SISTER GROUPS
Since its founding in 2013, DCMJ has led the nation in creative and high-profile cannabis reform activism. After introducing and passing DC’s Initiative 71 in 2014, which voters legalized the possession and cultivation of cannabis, DCMJ organized three large seed giveaways that provided all adults and Congressional staffers the means to grow cannabis for themselves, deployed giant 51-foot inflatable joints outside the Capitol, the White House, the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Times Square in New York City, the 2016 Presidential Debates, Annapolis Statehouse and Boston’s Freedom Rally, as well as distributing over 10,000 joints of District of Columbia homegrown cannabis at the Inauguration of President Donald Trump, and attempting to distribute 1,227 joints at the congressional “Joint Session” in 2017, where U.S. Capitol Police unlawfully arrested seven DCMJ activists (All charges were dropped the following day). In 2021, DCMJ conceptualized and launched the “Joints for Jabs” coronavirus vaccination incentive program that was spontaneously adopted around the U.S., including by the State of Washington. DCMJ and sister group NYMJ gave away about 8,000 Joints on 4/20/21 in D.C. and NYC to adults with proof of vaccination. Also in 2021, VAMJ and DCMJ were behind The Great Commonwealth Cannabis Seed Share, collecting and distributing more than 20,000 donated seeds on the first day of legal home craft cultivation in Virginia. In 2018, 2019, and 2021, aligned organizations MDMJ, VAMJ, COMJ, and NYMJ were formed to advocate for cannabis reform in Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, and New York. DCMJ demands cannabis be removed from the Controlled Substances Act and all Americans are given the right to grow cannabis in the safety and privacy of their homes.

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Click here to download a PDF of this press release.


Demand Clemency Now!

Clemency Request Letter to Governor Northam

September 13, 2021

The Honorable Governor Ralph Northam
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218
804-786-2211
Commonwealth of Virginia – Contact the Governor’s Office

Dear Governor Northam:

Virginia Marijuana Justice volunteers would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your important work with reforming laws that, for years, have hurt cannabis consumers and have torn families apart for a victimless and non-violent act. We feel that your office has heard our message on many aspects of this law. We do, of course, want to see the law go into full effect and for the entire community to benefit from your work. It is a significant part of your legacy as governor.

Cannabis has been legalized for home cultivation and possession in Virginia, and a clemency provision was written into the law to allow the release of nonviolent cannabis “offenders.” However, many good people of Virginia remain incarcerated. It’s time to release non-violent cannabis prisoners from the shackles of the failed and malevolent War on Drugs. We must do the same for anyone that has been sent back to prison for simply testing positive for cannabis on a drug test.

As you know, minorities are disproportionately targeted by the propaganda-driven War of Drugs. Now is the time to release them from jail. Thousands of Virginians all around the state will celebrate to be reunited with men and women that are husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers and friends. Often, veterans use cannabis to deal with the post traumatic stress when they return home. Twenty two veterans each day commit suicide from the stress. Please release them all and allow them to heal.

We’d like to know about your plan to move forward on granting clemency to all people incarcerated for cannabis From probation violations for drug tests to possession, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis, we want our friends released to go home to their families. We do not want our taxpayer dollars keeping non-violent citizens incarcerated for cannabis. We hope we have your continued support on these important criminal justice reforms.

Solidarity,
Virginia Marijuana Justice VAMJ


Click here to download a PDF of this letter

Click here participate in the Cannabis Clemency Call-A-Thon

Cannabis Clemency Call-A-Thon (9/16/21)

Join us on Thursday, September 16, 2021 high noon to 4:20pm for the Cannabis Clemency Call-A-Thon!
Cannabis has been legalized for home cultivation and possession in Virginia. Clemency was written into the law to allow the release of nonviolent cannabis “offenders”, however many of those good people remain in prison. It’s time to release those cannabis prisoners of the War on Drugs as well as anyone that has been sent back to jail for a violation simply because they tested positive on a cannabis drug test.

Join us on Thursday, September 16, 2021 from High Noon to 4:20pm and let the Virginia Governor Northam know that there is more work to be done. Let’s get those phones ringing to remind the Governor to finish his work on this issue before he leaves office.

Take the opportunity to also call our President and the Dept. of Justice to ask for clemency for Federal non-violent cannabis “offenders”.

Help us spread the word by inviting friends and sharing the graphic above!

Know The Law

Virginia is for (cannabis) lovers!

CANNABIS IS NOW LEGAL IN VIRGINIA!

We hope you were able to score some seeds today! We know many of you were unable to because there was such a huge demand across the entire state. We estimate that VAMJ volunteers gave away about 20,000 seeds today. We hope to do this again in the future, so please get involved with Virginia Marijuana Justice!


Time to germinate those cannabis seeds!

Germinated Cannabis Seeds!

GERMINATE THOSE SEEDS!

Now that (most) of you have cannabis seeds, you might want to know what to do next. Maryland Marijuana Justice co-founder, Kris Furnish, made a short video to help. Click here to watch the video on Facebook.


View of the line in Virginia!

View of the line outside the Rosslyn Metro Station

KNOW THE LAW – GROW THE LAW

We want everyone who is growing their cannabis to do so without fear of arrest or prosecution. The best way to do this is to know the law.  There are already a few FAQs available online.

The state of Virginia doesn’t make it easy to find the actual text of the law that was passed. They would rather you read summaries on their website than actually know what the law says. If you haven’t yet, we recommend downloading the PDF of the law for your own personal records.

Thankfully the home cultivation section is pretty short (see below) and you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand it.  The rest of the cannabis law deals with the business side and what you can and cannot do with your legal cannabis. These sections are all important if you plan on opening a licensed business in Virginia.

Right now, only New York legally allows public consumption of cannabis, everywhere else, including Virginia, cannabis can only be consumed at a private residence. We believe that the police are going to continue to enforce cannabis laws where they can, so don’t consume cannabis in your car, at a bar, on the sidewalk, or at a park, only at a home.

Public consumption is the easiest way to get in trouble with the law now that cannabis is legal. Worse, a bag of cannabis in your pocket can be construed as an “open container,” so it’s best to keep your cannabis in the trunk of the car when bringing your home grown cannabis to a friend’s place.

Here’s the Home Cultivation Law Summarized:

  1. When you start your home grow on July 1, you can only germinate 4 seeds. You might have 2 extra. Those are in case a seed or two does not germinate. You can only grow your cannabis at your primary residence. Meaning, you can’t grow 4 plants at one house and another 4 plants at another house you own. [See section 4.1-1101(A)]
  2. You need to keep your outdoor plants out of sight from the public. So don’t grow it in your front yard next to your rose bushes. You also need to take precautions so that someone under 21 years of age cannot access the plant. We recommend a locked fence if grown outdoors or a locked door if grown indoors.   [See sections  4.1-1101(B)(1) & 4.1-1101(B)(2)]
  3. You need to label your plant with your NAME, DRIVER’S LICENSE / ID NUMBER, and include a stupid statement “This marijuana plant is being grown for personal use as authorized by Section 4.1-1101” … You can make up your own statement like “This marijuana plant is being grown for personal use as authorized by Section 4.1-1101 because the state of Virginia is afraid of us growing too many cannabis plants and taking away their precious tax revenue.” Free speech that complies with the law! [See section 4.1-1101(B)(3)]
  4. Don’t make concentrates with your 4 plants. Even if you were to attempt to make concentrates with 4 plants, you won’t end up with much, so don’t waste your time. Virginia doesn’t allow distilling hard liquor at home, why should do you think the state would allow concentrating cannabis? Don’t be the fool who blows up their house. [See section 4.1-1101(C)]  NOTE #1: On page 124 the law says, “Marijuana concentrate” is defined as marijuana that has undergone a process to concentrate one or more active cannabinoids, thereby increasing the product’s potency. Resin from granular trichomes from a marijuana plant is a concentrate for purposes of this subtitle.” NOTE #2: And on Page 161, there is a separate part about making concentrates, which says “No person shall separate plant resin by butane extraction or another method that utilizes a substance with a flashpoint below 100 degrees Fahrenheit in any public place, motor vehicle, or within the curtilage of any residential structure.”
  5. If you grow more than 4 plants, but less than a total of 10 total plants, you run the risk of a $250 fine and each time you get busted for this the penalty goes up. If you grow more than 10 but less than 50 plants, you risk a Class 1 misdemeanor (Penalty: up to twelve months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500, or both). If you grow between 50 and less than 100, you risk a Class 6 felony (Penalty: up to 5 years in jail and up to $2,500 fine, or both). If you grow 100 or more plants, you can be found guilty of a felony (Up to 10 years in jail and up to $250,000 fine, or both). [See section 4.1-1101(D)(1 to 4)]

THAT’S IT! Germinate 4 seedlings, tag them, grow them out of sight and away from folks under 21 years of age, don’t make concentrates, and don’t grow too many plants.

Tagging them when the seeds are in the soil can be done by writing the information on a post-it note and taping on the vessel the seed is growing. When they get large enough, you should tag the stalk of the plant.

ARE YOU A RENTER?  – If you are a renter, your landlord can add an addendum to you lease prohibiting you from being able to grow cannabis. It’s their rental unit and they can call the shots. Lease says no pets? It’s the same logic. Read your lease thoroughly before you sign it, because there might be a stipulation that prevents you from growing cannabis.


HERE’S THE ACTUAL TEXT OF THE LAW TAKEN FROM PAGE 156:

§ 4.1-1101. Home cultivation of marijuana for personal use; penalties.

A. Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision c of §18.2-248.1, a person 21 years of age or older may cultivate up to four marijuana plants for personal use at their place of residence; however, at no point shall a household contain more than four marijuana plants. For purposes of this section, a “household” means those individuals, whether related or not, who live in the same house or other place of residence. A person may only cultivate marijuana plants pursuant to this section at such person’s main place of residence.

B. A person who cultivates marijuana for personal use pursuant to this section shall:

1. Ensure that no marijuana plant is visible from a public way without the use of aircraft, binoculars, or other optical aids;
2. Take precautions to prevent unauthorized access by persons younger than 21 years of age; and
3. Attach to each marijuana plant a legible tag that includes the person’s name, driver’s license or identification number, and a notation that the marijuana plant is being grown for personal use as authorized under this section.

C. A person shall not manufacture marijuana concentrate from home-cultivated marijuana. The owner of a property or parcel or tract of land may not intentionally or knowingly allow another person to manufacture marijuana concentrate from home-cultivated marijuana within or on that property or land.

D. The following penalties or punishments shall be imposed on any person convicted of a violation of this section:

1. For possession of more than four marijuana plants but no more than 10 marijuana plants, (i) a civil penalty of $250 for a first offense, (ii) a Class 3 misdemeanor for a second offense, and (iii) a Class 2 misdemeanor for a third and any subsequent offense;
2. For possession of more than 10 but no more than 49 marijuana plants, a Class 1 misdemeanor;
3. For possession of more than 49 but no more than 100 marijuana plants, a Class 6 felony; and
4. For possession of more than 100 marijuana plants, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not
less than one year nor more than 10 years and a fine of not more than $250,000, or both.

 


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ADULT SHARING!

You can give up to an ounce of cannabis (including seeds!) to other adults but you CANNOT make a transaction. This portion of the law aimed to close the “gifting loophole” in Washington, DC’s Initiative 71.

Our read on the law is that as long as the cannabis weighs under an ounce, you can give it away to another adult. This means you can give one cutting, under an ounce in weight, to a friend to grow their own plant. We recommend doing this after the sex is ascertained.

More importantly, sequester any newly obtained cannabis cuttings or seedlings for at least two weeks before adding it to the rest of your plants. There may be bugs or pathogens on the new plant, which can damage your other plants. After two weeks, you should know if the new plant is okay.

HERE’S THE ACTUAL TEXT OF THE LAW TAKEN FROM PAGE 156:

§ 4.1-1101.1. Adult sharing of marijuana.

A. For the purposes of this section, “adult sharing” means transferring marijuana between persons who are 21 years of age or older without remuneration. “Adult sharing” does not include instances in which (i) marijuana is given away contemporaneously with another reciprocal transaction between the same parties; (ii) a gift of marijuana is offered or advertised in conjunction with an offer for the sale of goods or services; or (iii) a gift of marijuana is contingent upon a separate reciprocal transaction for goods or services.

B. Notwithstanding the provisions of §18.2-248.1, no civil or criminal penalty may be imposed for adult sharing of an amount of marijuana that does not exceed one ounce or of an equivalent amount of marijuana products.


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Sharing is caring!


OPEN CONTAINER (OF CANNABIS)

You can’t drive around with an open container of beer nor can you drive around with a baggie of cannabis. Granted its a lot easier to drink a beer while driving than it is to consume buds in a baggie, but the law’s intent is clear: they don’t want people driving around consuming cannabis.

We suggest keeping cannabis in your trunk when driving. Will everyone remember to put their cannabis in their trunk? No. Can we not give cops a reason to pull us over? Sorta. Unfortunately, Driving While Black is still well and alive in Virginia and legalization will not end this overnight. We need to work to end racial profiling and knowing the law is the first step.

However, having clouds of smoke coming out of your car might give the law enforcement officer probable cause. And while smell alone of cannabis is not probable cause, clouds of smoke or a lit “marijuana cigarette” might give them reason to pull you over. Just don’t smoke in your car and if you want to be extra safe, keep your baggie or jar of cannabis in the trunk.

HERE’S THE ACTUAL TEXT OF THE LAW TAKEN FROM PAGE 159:

§ 4.1-1107. Using or consuming marijuana or marijuana products while in a motor vehicle being driven upon a public highway; penalty.

A. For the purposes of this section:

“Open container” means any vessel containing marijuana or marijuana products, except the originally sealed manufacturer’s container.

“Passenger area” means the area designed to seat the driver of any motor vehicle, any area within the reach of the driver, including an unlocked glove compartment, and the area designed to seat passengers. “Passenger area” does not include the trunk of any passenger vehicle; the area behind the last upright seat of a passenger van, station wagon, hatchback, sport utility vehicle or any similar vehicle; the living quarters of a motor home; or the passenger area of a motor vehicle designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation, including a bus, taxi, or limousine, while engaged in the transportation of such persons.

B. It is unlawful for any person to use or consume marijuana or marijuana products while driving a motor vehicle upon a public highway of the Commonwealth or while being a passenger in a motor vehicle being driven upon a public highway of the Commonwealth.

C. A judge or jury may make a permissive inference that a person has consumed marijuana or marijuana products in violation of this section if (i) an open container is located within the passenger area of the motor vehicle, (ii) the marijuana or marijuana products in the open container have been at least partially removed and (iii) the appearance, conduct, speech, or other physical characteristic of such person, excluding odor, is consistent with the consumption of marijuana or marijuana products. Such person may be prosecuted either in the county or city in which the marijuana was used or consumed, or in the county or city in which the person exhibits evidence of physical indicia of use or consumption of marijuana.

D. Any person who violates this section is guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.


Feel free to share the text above with people you know or share this graphic below:
Don't get busted for an open container


SMELL OF CANNABIS IS *NOT* PROBABLE CAUSE

Imagine for a second… You just got done curing your cannabis and you decide to bag is all up, and you are walking down the street with 6 ounces (which is 5 ounces more than you can legally possess!) of the dankest homegrown cannabis in your backpack and an officer smells it, detains you, asks you to open your backpack up, and sees the giant bag of cannabis, and proceeds to arrest you, the police officer will have violated the law and the case will be thrown out. Under the new law, the smell alone of cannabis is not probable cause for an officer to search you.

If you are driving in your car and an officer sees a joint being smoked, and you have 2 ounces of cannabis in your glove box, you can get busted for public consumption AND an open container. Be smart! Don’t give the police a reason to investigate your activities.

HERE’S THE ACTUAL TEXT OF THE LAW TAKEN FROM PAGE 165:

§ 4.1-1302. Search without warrant; odor of marijuana.

A. No law-enforcement officer, as defined in § 9.1-101, may lawfully stop, search, or seize any person, place, or thing and no search warrant may be issued solely on the basis of the odor of marijuana and no evidence discovered or obtained pursuant to a violation of this subsection, including evidence discovered or obtained with the person’s consent, shall be admissible in any trial, hearing, or other proceeding.

B. The provisions of subsection A shall not apply in any airport as defined in § 5.1-1 or if the violation occurs in a commercial motor vehicle as defined in § 46.2-341.4.


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Smell alone is not justification for a search


ONE OUNCE COOL, BUT ONE POUND BAD

If you are 21 years of age or older, you can possess up to an ounce of cannabis in Virginia. If have more than an ounce, but under a pound, it’s a $25 fine. But if you have a pound or more, you are looking at a felony. BAD!  We suggest buying a scale. You will know what your cannabis weight is quite easily and save yourself between $25 and $250,000 in fines.

HERE’S THE ACTUAL TEXT OF THE LAW TAKEN FROM PAGES 155 & 156:

§ 4.1-1100. Possession, etc., of marijuana and marijuana products by persons 21 years of age or older lawful; penalties.

A. Except as otherwise provided in this subtitle and notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person 21 years of age or older may lawfully possess on his person or in any public place not more than one ounce of marijuana or an equivalent amount of marijuana product as determined by regulation promulgated by the Board.

B. Any person who possesses on his person or in any public place marijuana or marijuana products in excess of the amounts set forth in subsection A is subject to a civil penalty of no more than $25. The penalty for any violations of this section by an adult shall be prepayable according to the procedures in § 16.1-69.40:2.

C. With the exception of a licensee in the course of his duties related to such licensee’s marijuana establishment, any person who possesses on his person or in any public place more than one pound of marijuana or an equivalent amount of marijuana product as determined by regulation promulgated by the Board is guilty of a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than 10 years and a fine of not more than $250,000, or both.

D. The provisions of this section shall not apply to members of federal, state, county, city, or town law- enforcement agencies, jail officers, or correctional officers, as defined in § 53.1-1, certified as handlers of dogs trained in the detection of controlled substances when possession of marijuana is necessary for the performance of their duties.


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You can possess up to an ounce. Don't get caught with more than a pound!


There is quite a bit more in the law, but these sections are the ones we thought were important to know on Day 1 of legal cannabis in Virginia. Again, we suggest downloading the PDF of the law and making yourself familiar with it. You don’t need to be a lawyer to read laws, but you will need one if you get arrested. Knowledge is power!

Press Release: Virginia Marijuana Justice Marks July 1 Legalization with Free Seed Giveaway


For Immediate Release
Contact: RachelRamone Donlan
(339) 225-2855, Rachel@VAMJ.org

Virginia Marijuana Justice Marks July 1 Legalization with Free Seed Giveaway

“The Great Commonwealth Cannabis Seed Share” is Coming to Sites Statewide

ARLINGTON, Virginia — Virginia Marijuana Justice (VAMJ) will celebrate the first day of cannabis legalization in Virginia with a free cannabis seed giveaway at sites around the state while calling attention to legalized home cultivation and the need to patch some significant holes in the new law.

Working with sister organizations District of Columbia Marijuana Justice (DCMJ) and Maryland Marijuana Justice (MDMJ), VAMJ has set a goal to collect 10,000 donated seeds from cannabis growers and supporters and intends to distribute them to a new crop of legal home growers at locations within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Sites include outside CBD Store-Richmond (3442 Lauderdale Drive, Henrico, VA); near Rosslyn Metro (1850 N. Moore St., Arlington) and a private property in Charlottesville.

“We want to mark this historic day by saying ’let us grow’ now that home cultivation of cannabis is legal in Virginia,” said Nat Copes, a VAMJ volunteer from Alexandria. “We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the occasion than by having VAMJ volunteers hand out free high-quality seeds to Virginians.”

Here is a link to a 27-second video release (for use at will) of volunteers packaging seeds for the giveaway: https://fb.watch/v/AoEyFkE4/

Considered in the national cannabis community to be the leading consumer advocate for home cultivation and innovative social equity provisions, DCMJ pioneered the seed share in the District of Columbia after cannabis became legal in 2015. DCMJ led the effort to pass Initiative 71 that legalized cannabis in the nation’s capital in 2014. Most recently, DCMJ and sister organization New York Marijuana Justice (NYMJ) launched the COVID-19 vaccination incentive program “Joints for Jabs,” giving away more than 8,000 joints in Washington, D.C. and New York City to adults who showed proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Joints for Jabs spin offs continue to sprout independently around the U.S., including in Maryland, Michigan, Arizona, and Washington State, which became the first government body to embrace the idea.

“We have seen first-hand the smiles and gratitude that a free seed giveaway brings to first-time growers, and it’s pretty special,” said Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ. “However, we also know from our experience that so many people do not realize that they can grow cannabis at home legally. Some people didn’t know about the new law, as it pertains to home cultivation, until our volunteers handed them a free packet of seeds. So there is a significant educational component to our giveaways.”

While the pride and experience of legally growing and harvesting a productive plant under one’s own supervision speaks for itself, the other reality is that home cultivation mitigates the problem of the high price of over-the-counter cannabis, especially for patients, since medical marijuana is not covered by private insurers or Medicare, Medicaid or Veterans Administration benefits. Access to dispensaries is a huge problem in general, with only four in operation throughout the state.

“Craft cultivation improves patient outcomes and home cultivation helps to reduce the scope and control exerted upon society by criminal organizations, while reversing the carnage left behind from prohibition,” said Michael Krawitz, co-founder of VAMJ and Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access. “Veterans have been fighting in Virginia for decades to see this day when we are finally free to grow cannabis in the privacy and safety of our own homes. Among other medical uses, it’s well known that for many veterans, cannabis can help with pain and the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).”

However, under the new Virginia law, a person can only possess an ounce of cannabis and only grow four plants at home, both of which are limits that fall short of the medical needs of many cannabis patients. VAMJ is urging lawmakers to consider raising the plant count limit to six plants for one adult and up to 12 plants if more than one adult is living at home. The 6/12 plant limits are in line with most states that have legalized home cultivation, including neighboring Washington, DC.

“We will continue to make our message clear that we want to be free to grow an amount of cannabis to actually meet our needs, and for punitive penalties to be eliminated,” Krawitz said. “It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t start out of the gate with more reasonable limits, however, it is a good starting point. Too many people will still wind up in the illicit market to fill the void created by these unrealistic plant and possession limits.”

In general, Virginia’s new cannabis law is extremely confusing, as can be expected from a 280-page document written in legal language that even some lawyers have trouble understanding. However, a lot can be done by the next legislative session to remove some penalties and fines and lessen consequences for the nonviolent “crime” of cannabis possession. VAMJ will be rolling out proposed amendments to the law as we get closer to the 2022 legislative session.

But on the eve of taking the giant step toward full and fair legalization, VAMJ activists acknowledge there is a significant victory to celebrate July 1.

“Virginians came together and worked hard to earn the distinction of blazing the trail in the South for adult-use legalization, including crucial social equity and home cultivation provisions,” said Sonia Ballinger, a co-founder of VAMJ from Sterling. “There are obvious measures that were taken to ensure social justice components were added to the law. Many people made the case face-to-face in early 2020 and then by working the phones and video streams when coronavirus shut-downs began. It’s been gratifying to see so much progress directly related to VAMJ’s community activism, advocacy and willingness to partner up with other groups in Virginia.”

VAMJ is dedicated to fighting for cannabis consumers, cultivators, workers, patients, and their families. VAMJ began lobbying in Virginia in 2019 to support passage of adult-use cannabis laws in the Commonwealth. Since then, VAMJ has been active in Richmond and across the state, educating the public and advocating for systemic changes in the criminal justice system.

VAMJ backs full legalization, including the right to cultivate cannabis in the privacy and comfort of our homes, as well as reforming and filling harmful or outdated holes within the criminal justice system. The group was launched during the statewide elections in 2019, playing a pivotal role in key races in the Tidewater Region by highlighting the scourge of opioid addiction in Virginia and calling attention to cannabis as a non-addictive alternative plant medicine.

VAMJ is a sister organization of District of Columbia Marijuana Justice (DCMJ), Colorado Marijuana Justice (COMJ), Maryland Marijuana Justice (MDMJ), and New York Marijuana Justice (NYMJ).

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Click here to download a copy of this Press Release