WINCHESTER — The newest chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) launched in Winchester on Tuesday.
James Huff, a 2009 Millbrook High School graduate, said he started the group because he’s tired of watching his aunt suffer from seizures that can be treated with medicinal marijuana products.
“That was a big push for me,” the 26-year-old said. He also wants to fight the prosecution of people who carry and smoke small amounts of marijuana, particularly after a relative got in trouble this year.
Huff has met with members of Winchester City Council, as well as town and county officials in Frederick County, with the goal of getting local law enforcement officers to consider marijuana crimes their lowest priority.
He plans to speak at public meetings and wants to get local commonwealth’s attorneys to stop prosecuting minor marijuana crimes.
More than a dozen people attended an informational meeting about the new NORML chapter at Brewbaker’s restaurant on Tuesday. Huff, who works as a Chinese food delivery driver, was joined by Virginia NORML’s executive director Jenn Michelle Pedini.
Marijuana has been a Schedule I narcotic in the United States since the Controlled Substances Act of of 1970, which places it alongside drugs like heroin.
In recent years, the movement to legalize marijuana has gained support. Recreational marijuana is now legal in nine states and Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 30 states. Virginia is not among these states, but this year Gov. Ralph Northam signed the Medical Cannabis Oil Bill into law, making it legal for Virginians to get a form of medical marijuana for treatment of any diagnosed condition or disease.
A federal ban on marijuana remains in place.
Pedini said she lobbies the Virginia General Assembly each year to reduce the state’s restrictions on marijuana and will propose decriminalizing it next year. Decriminalization is different from legalization, in that it limits the legal consequences for marijuana use and possession.
“We won’t have a legalization bill in Virginia because I’m not going to waste your grassroots donations on a bill that has no chance of being heard,” Pedini told those in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.
As for a lift on the federal ban, Pedini said it’s not going to happen “out of this Congress.”
Anyone who wants more information about the NORML chapter can contact Huff at Jah29909@email.vccs.edu.
— Contact Onofrio Castiglia at email@example.com