I want to send out a big kudos to the people at Virginia NORML for putting on a successful conference recently. Anytime a state NORML chapter puts on a conference, especially on the East Coast, it's very significant because it gets the conversations started on media outlets and in communities. I have always felt that one of the biggest obstacles facing marijuana reform is that many people consider marijuana based discussions to be taboo. Hosting a conference where people can share their ideas, concerns, and views helps reduce the stigma.
According to a Virginia media outlet, "More than 70 people came out to the NORML conference with various reasons for wanting to legalize marijuana. Some were political, some were medical, and others were personal." I have been checking Virginia NORML's YouTube page to see if there is any video footage from the event but it looks like none have been uploaded yet. I'll keep checking, and if footage becomes available, I'll update this article to include it (*updated, video found, thanks so much Kirby!).
If there is any place in the nation that needs marijuana reform, it's definitely Virginia. Under current Virginia law, there is no medical marijuana program, there is no marijuana decriminalization on the books, and you can still face significant jail time for cultivation of any amount. It makes me feel better to know that Virginia NORML is working hard to change things!
Below is a list of speakers at the event. I hope to make it to Virginia someday to meet these hardworking people:
Dr. Richard Bonnie - Professor at University of Virginia School of Law; associate director of President Nixon's National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Dr. Jon Gettman - marijuana researcher; former director of NORML; leader of the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis; professor of public administration at Shepherd University
Michael Krawitz - founder of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access
Al Byrne - co-founder of Patients Out of Time
Jamie Haase - former Special Agent of the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Lennice Werth - Virginia marijuana activist and founder of Virginians Against Drug Violence
Dave Norris - member of Charlottesville City Council and former mayor
Sabrina Fendrick - founder and coordinator of the NORML Women's Alliance; member of Board of Directors of Virginia NORML