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,

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.

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

For Immediate Release
Contact: RachelRamone Donlan
(339) 225-2855,

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:

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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