A General Assembly subcommittee began work on marijuana legislation Tuesday, as a coalition of opponents spoke out against legalization.
Members of the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services – Subcommittee on Marijuana heard from the public, but most of their discussion centered on how the state should regulate the industry.
“I don’t see how this fits in ABC,” Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) said of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. “I think it has to be a separate entity.”
After the meeting, members of a coalition called Smart Approaches to marijuana spoke out against legalization.
“The medical studies stunned me,” said Dr. James Avery. “I had never seen a larger gap between the science and the public’s perception.”
The group includes health professional, substance abuse experts and law enforcement officials. They said legalizing marijuana will carry unintended consequences that could threaten the health and safety of Virginians.
“Youth also perceive that any substance that is legal is safe,” said Octavia Marsh. “And we all know that legal does not necessarily mean safe.”
“What does it take to get this message through that people are going to get hurt and they’re going to get killed on the highway because of drugged driving,” said John Jones, executive director of the Virginia Sheriffs Association.
The push to legalize marijuana has high-powered supporters, including Governor Ralph Northam. Polls suggest a majority of Virginians support legalization.