SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA (WJHL) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam called for an acceleration of marijuana possession legalization from 2024 to just three months from now, but local law enforcement questions enforcement.
Gov. Northam’s amendments to his marijuana legalization bill would allow those over the age of 21 to have up to one ounce of cannabis without the intent to distribute, and to grow marijuana at home – as soon as July 1.
“We’re putting public safety in jeopardy for political points and that’s sad. It’s dangerous, it’s sad and Virginia deserves better,” said Chuck Slemp, the commonwealth attorney for Wise County and Norton, Virginia.
Slemp supports marijuana legalization, including Gov. Northam’s goal of eventually allowing marijuana retail sales regulated by the state, but allowing people to possess and grow it the summer causes him to be concerned.
“I supported it with the caveat that we could tax it, we could regulate it and we can make sure it’s safe for people to consume and that it’s difficult for those under 21 to get a hold of,” he said.
Scott County Sheriff Jeff Edds told News Channel 11 he has some concerns about the legislation.
“It don’t explain a whole lot in how we’re going to enforce some of those,” Edds said. “What size plants? How much? Where are you going to grow it? In your kitchen? I can understand having it for personal use… and that’s where the country’s going it seems like but the growing of it in a household with babies, kids… that’s what bothers me more than anything. The ounce is each person’s decision.”
Both Edds and Slemp said their focus and resources have been turned to other drugs like methamphetamine.
“We had two drug dogs that we have and we are having to get rid of because we can’t use them anymore because they’re imprinted with marijuana… they smell marijuana. We’re having to go to the expense of getting new dogs and our guys training with them with no reimbursement from the state at all and most dogs are fairly young and new,” Edds added.
The retail component of the marijuana legislation is not expected to be legalized until 2024, but the possession and growing portion of the bill could pass as early as next month when state legislators head to back Richmond.