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As Biden Embraces Marijuana, Virginia’s Youngkin Says No

Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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by Andrew Shirley
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43 Comments
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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore Flickr

In a historic shift, the Biden Department of Justice on May 16 moved to formally reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III substance, ending decades of federal policy categorizing weed as a Schedule I substance alongside other hard drugs like heroin and LSD. While the proposed change won’t outright legalize pot for recreational use, it does mark a major step toward decriminalization at the federal level.

But even as Biden’s DOJ was finalizing their new rule, right across the Potomac in Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin vetoed a Democrat-backed bill last month which would have legalized marijuana in the Old Dominion. The contrast highlights continued resistance from many Republicans to the rapid legalization of recreational weed use, particularly as new research calls into question Democrat assertions that the drug is “harmless” or less dangerous than other legal substances like alcohol and cigarettes.

Since 2021, Virginia has allowed sales of some marijuana-derived products, and has allowed adults aged 21 or older to grow and possess marijuana in their homes. However, Democrats in the state have been pushing for full legalization, something Youngkin has always made clear he is opposed to.

After taking back the House of Delegates and holding the state senate last year, one of Virginia Democrats’ first priorities was passing a weed legalization bill. Leading the charge was Louise Lucas, a far-left Democrat from Portsmouth, Virginia, who has styled herself as Youngkin’s nemesis in the state legislature.

Back in 2022, Lucas notably hosted a pot-themed “420ish Unity Festival” where she donned a dress with images of marijuana leaves. Lucas also owns a cannabis shop which has been cited for selling mislabeled products which contain illegal substances.

While pro-legalization advocates were hopeful Youngkin would sign the bill, he instead slammed it in a veto statement as “endanger[ing] Virginians’ health and safety.”

“States following this path have seen adverse effects on children’s and adolescents’ health and safety, increased gang activity and violent crime, significant deterioration in mental health, decreased road safety, and significant costs associated with retail marijuana that far exceed tax revenue,” Youngkin continued. “It also does not eliminate the illegal black-market sale of cannabis, nor guarantee product safety.”

Youngkin’s statement is backed up by a growing body of evidence suggesting that marijuana – particularly the far more potent strains of the drug in circulation today – are more harmful than once believed.

Virginia’s own history with cannabis shows this to be the case. When marijuana became legal in the state in 2021, stores began selling products like gummies and candy with higher and higher levels of THC. According to Virginia’s Cannabis Control Authority, “the amount of THC in cannabis products nearly quadrupled from 1998 to 2021.”

The more legally available the drug has become, the more high-potency THC products have been made available to the public. These have been linked to addiction, heart complications, brain damage, motor fatalities, and even psychotic episodes.

As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, the idea that marijuana isn’t addictive is also a myth. According to drug expert Dr. Bertha Madras, “About 30 percent of those who use cannabis have some degree of a use disorder. By comparison, only 13.5 percent of drinkers are estimated to be dependent on alcohol.”

Moreover, the highly potent weed on the market today is more likely to lead to schizophrenia and chronic psychosis. Pregnant women are also using pot at an increasing rate, leading to birth defects and even disruptive and violent behavior in kids who were exposed to THC in the womb.

Another consequence of marijuana legalization, particularly as gummies and other edibles become more popular, is unintentional ingestion by children. In 2020, for instance, Vermont, which legalized weed in 2018, had 29 children admitted into emergency rooms for accidental ingestion of cannabis. In 2023, that number jumped to 377.

This problem is even popping up in Virginia without full legalization. Earlier this month, the Virginia State Health Commission announced that they had created a new website to track and report cases of minors being hospitalized due to “cannabis consumption.”

Nonetheless, marijuana remains legal for medicinal use in 38 states and legal for recreational use in 24 states. Even in those states where the drug remains illegal, many district attorneys refuse to prosecute marijuana cases.

Many Democrats and even some Republicans bemoaned Youngkin’s refusal to legalize marijuana. The issue could cost Republicans at the ballot box with young voters who overwhelmingly favor legalization.

But in preventing full legalization, Youngkin may have saved his state from the dire consequences being experienced by other states who have fully legalized the drug. Unlike Democrat legalization efforts, which are based more on politics than science, Youngkin appears to be looking out for the health and well-being of Virginia residents – and that, ultimately, is the basic responsibility of any elected leader.

Andrew Shirley is a veteran speechwriter and AMAC Newsline columnist. His commentary can be found on X at @AA_Shirley.

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Mike
Mike
29 days ago

I have always been against the legalizing of marijuana. There is no way to test the level as you can with alcohol. And I’ve seen many of my childhood friends lives ruined and many of them can’t hold down a job so there is another drain on welfare system that didn’t need to be.
And it’s terrible here to see all these so called ‘smoke shops’ popping up all over my city in run down or abandoned buildings adding to the decay of the area.
Between drugs and illegals we are heading in a a downward spiral.

Bonnie
Bonnie
29 days ago

After my state legalized recreational marijuana, pot shops sprang up faster than gas stations. Our town doesn’t have a stop light or even a stop sign but there’s 2 pot shops. People are very blatant about getting high in public now. You can smell pot smoke coming from moving cars, walking through store parking lots, people standing on the sidewalks. I’ve seen couples with babies in strollers getting high in the parks. Don’t let this happen in your state.

Larry
Larry
29 days ago

With all the crazies driving the freeways and texting, all we need now is more stoned drivers.

GMK
GMK
29 days ago

I live in CO and not by choice. My job was re-located here in 2018. CO is “proud” to say that they were the 1st state to legalize recreational pot in 2012. I purposely chose to live in a suburb of Denver that, right after recreational pot use became legal, passed a city ordinance banning pot shops. In the 6 years I have lived here the #s of people busted for driving under the influence of pot are on the rise, along with the #s of young people, under age 18, who have to seek ER care for issues brought on by pot use. Anybody who claims today’s pot is harmless must have brain damage caused by pot use.

Ray Doyle LFP, WA
Ray Doyle LFP, WA
29 days ago

Why are democrats in favor of marijuana and against cigarettes? contrary to the marijuana crowd beliefs marijuana is worse for you and you will still die of cancer.

Old Silk
Old Silk
29 days ago

There is no medically acceptable use for it. It is an hallucinogen. It is also hypoglycemic. It is also just another method of taxing something else since the student loans are out of the way and saving money for young people.

Melinda
Melinda
29 days ago

I have never tried pot, and never will, although I know many people who use it. I can see its effects, short and long term. There’s no doubt it is more potent now, and more dangerous.

Valerie
Valerie
29 days ago

I agree totally with the Governor’s strong stance of keeping cannabis from widespread use. The is a far more dangerous drug than people generally realize, and he is doing young Virginians a favor. They won’t agree, but further research, and more use of cannabis will demonstrate, sadly, that some of the fears expressed in this article will come to pass and be proven.

Joe
Joe
29 days ago

And to think some states legalized psychedelic mushrooms. I’m sure this is next Joebama’s party list. Has me very afraid of driving on the highway.

uncleferd
uncleferd
29 days ago

Mr. Youngkin is, evidently, a very good governor who cares about the people in his state.
Most of us have lived enough to have long seen the psychological effects of Marijuana, especially on younger people and those with specific conditions and vulnerabilities, including depression.
“President” Biden must certainly wish to tax Marijuana as highly as legally possible, though, few seem to be discussing the “down-the-road” liabilities of those who would suffer more from it’s, increased availability, including teenage car accident victims.
If only “a toke o’ the bone” was all it took to transfer some Grey Matter and adult logic to those, like our “President”, who desperately need it……

michaelR
michaelR
29 days ago

Well,…..MJ should have NEVER been placed in the schedule one category in the first place. Having a life long criminal record for enjoying a plant??? This article has a lot of bunk propaganda as well. For the record, alcohol is far worse than MJ.

anna hubert
anna hubert
29 days ago

And nary a whisper from the medical community about the danger of substances for the young brain How much more devastation must we see before it’s finally decided enough is enough time to clean up Took three generations to get where we are It probably will take as long to get cleaned up Bring back the death penalty for the manufacturer who is the mass murderer Nothing else will stop it

Sean
Sean
28 days ago

Helps with my Parkinson’s Disease. The federal government used some real legalistic slime to make possession without a tax stamp a crime…

Gilbert Chavez
Gilbert Chavez
28 days ago

As a retired law enforcement officer after 29 years no one can convince me that marijuana is a safer drug. This drug was used by child abusers to lower inhibition and resistance to sexual abuse along with ETOH. More traffic fatalities occurred due to combined use with ETOH and other illicit drugs. Is it a viable medical drug? Yes, when properly prescribed and used as any other medication. Governor Youngkin is correct.

Letts Brandon
Letts Brandon
28 days ago

The only thing new about marijuana since it was classified as schedule 1 is it is more dangerous than previously thought and it is now more powerful.

economic conservative
economic conservative
29 days ago

Weed is bad. use guns lol

Mary B.
Mary B.
29 days ago

I’ve smoked for many years. However, what makes me uneasy is when the government starts pushing it. Makes me think that the agenda may be to have as many people mellow yellows so we are all easier to sway and manipulate. I’m not buying it. And pot is nothing like when we started smoking 30 yrs ago. Now you really don’t know what it’s laced with. My 2 cents

Robert Zuccaro
Robert Zuccaro
29 days ago

I am for legalization but all Biden is doing is using legalization to buy Gen Z votes. If ppl want to smoke pot, why shouldn’t they? Any argument made can easily be applied to everything from alcohol to coffee to sweets… so spare me: I did my share of drugs and drinking when I was young.

GMA
GMA
29 days ago

Don’t trust Youngkin. He is wishy washy.

Stay down
Stay down
29 days ago

This whole place is just a bunch of boomers complaining about things. I guess because you all used to listen to jazz you thought you were cool lol

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