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Virginians express excitement, concern on eve of marijuana legalization

Medical Marijuana Shrinking Market
Posted at 8:39 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 20:39:06-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The last time there was this much interest in an event at Three Notch’d Brewing’s Scotts Addition taproom, it was a Disney-themed party prior to the pandemic, according to their manager.

On Thursday, the space will host one of Virginia NORML's “Legalization Celebrations,” as Virginia becomes the 16th state to allow recreational use of cannabis.

Emileigh Kidd, the taproom manager, said their flagship “40-Mile IPA” will be on special through the entire party.

“We’ll be selling the 40-mile from 4:20 to 8:20 for four dollars and twenty cents. You couldn’t pass it up, it’s perfect,” she said. “I think a lot of people are excited about what’s happening. Virginia is the first state in the South to legalize, which is very big.”

Use of cannabis in private places, possession of up to one ounce, and home grows of four plants or less will be legal starting July 1. Still, many Virginians remained confused on exactly what the rules mean and look like.

RELATED: Virginia lawyer answers your burning marijuana questions

Virginia NORML is making an educational presentation for those who attend the party at Three Notch’d.

“It’s not just going to be free rein, come do whatever you want to do. It’ll be come learn, come have a beer, eat a cupcake or piece of pizza, and just learn some knowledge,” Kidd said. “There won’t be any marijuana at the party itself. It’s just going to be an educational thing. A fun educational thing.”

Other groups are planning seed giveaways in other locations. While celebrations are set, other groups are warning of the safety consequences that come along with recreational cannabis use, especially on the roadways.

“Obviously, AAA has major concerns about the legalization of recreational cannabis because we know what has happened in other states that have legalized,” said Martha Meade with AAA Mid Atlantic.

Meade said that their data showed a dramatic initial increase in impaired driving fatalities in states that legalized marijuana already. Plus, she said Virginia has a dearth of law enforcement officers trained in drug impairment detection and the state has not held an educational campaign warning of the specific dangers for driving while high.

RELATED: How you can legally grow marijuana in Virginia if buying and selling seeds is against the law

“We have no roadside test that can accurately measure impairment versus the amount of the drug in the system. That’s a huge problem for enforcement and keeping our roadways safe. Virginia has 25 drug recognition experts: that’s the lowest in the country. Those are the police officers who are trained to recognize marijuana impairment and get those drivers off the road,” Meade said. “Clearly, impaired driving isn’t something that’s allowed in any state, nor should it be. So, it certainly seems to reason that even with an educational campaign, some people are still going to drive impaired.”

Meade also noted that possession of marijuana inside the passenger compartment of any vehicle can lead to a charge of driving while impaired.

On a hot afternoon in Carytown, Mark Bracey said he thinks legalization is the right step. Growing up and living in Richmond, Brace said he knows multiple people who have been locked up for marijuana possession; their lives forever altered by something that will soon be completely legal.

“I know people that have been arrested over the years for a little possession and it changed their whole life,” Bracey said. “It’s not good. People lose their jobs anyway. So just imagine not being able to get a job. It’s got to be tough.”

You can read more about what is and is not allowed under the new law by visiting this website.