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Medical marijuana bill dies despite surprise support from Republican leader

Rosalind Helderman

A House subcommittee has unceremoniously tabled a pair of bills that would have liberalized Virginia's marijuana laws, in effect killing them. One measure would have made possession of under one ounce of pot a civil infraction punishable with merely a $500 fine. The other would have allowed doctors to prescribe marijuana for any medical condition, if the Federal government ever allows it. Virginia already has a law that says if FDA changes its rules on pot, doctors could prescribe marijuana for cancer and glaucoma.

A few days ago, we wrote about how these bills were being viewed largely with humor in the conservative House of Delegates. But at today's subcommittee meeting, each received a lengthy and serious hearing. Their death was a surprise to no one.

But there was one big surprise:

Republican Majority Leader Morgan Griffith announced to the subcommittee that though he opposed the bill to decriminalize marijuana possession he had, in fact, drafted the bill to allow for medical marijuana and he supported its passage.

He then gave a fairly impassioned defense of the idea that doctors should be allowed to prescribe cannabis, arguing it is no more dangerous than many drugs already allowed for medical use. "I truly believe that if we allow the use of morphine, opiates and oxycotin, we ought to allow for this," Griffith said.

A few years ago, Griffith was on the leading edge for his party in supporting a ban on smoking in restaurants. His support for allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical use in Virginia could likewise presage widening support for the idea.

CORRECTION: While Griffith sponsored early legislation on the smoking issue, his bill would have permitted restaurants the option of allowing smoking, if they posted signs clearly visible to patrons at the entrance. He also voted against measures to require restaurants to ban smoking. Our apologies for the error.

But, only in future years. This year, despite his effort, the panel voted to table the legislation 4 to 2.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  January 27, 2010; 6:49 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly 2010 , House of Delegates , Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

Griffith has NEVER supported a smoking ban. The bill he proposed a few years ago would simply have required restaurants to post a sign stating that they allow smoking. This type of "red light/green light" legislation is a tactic, with tobacco industry support, that allows legislators to say they are interested in addressing secondhand smoke while passing legislation that does nothing to protect public health. After Governor Kaine amended Griffith's bill to ban smoking in all restaurants, Griffith became one of the primary opponents of the smoking ban.

Posted by: CathleenGrz | January 27, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

What happened in the Virginia legislature is very usual which is why no one should have hopes that the legislature will actually pass social liberal bills for the governor to sign or veto. It's unfortunate that the subcommittee, not even the committee, killed the bill which would've made the possession of a small amount of marijuana made punishable by fine and that medical marijuana would've been legalized. The best thing to do is to live near Washington, D.C. because that city has much more potiential for implementing liberal laws regarding medical marijuana.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | January 27, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Virginia. The land time forgot.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 28, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Virginia. The land time forgot.

Posted by: jckdoors | January 28, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Spot on mate.

Posted by: Bigfoot_has_a_posse | January 28, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Medical marijuana amendment HB1136 was killed with a 4-3 vote.

Conservative Republican Morgan Griffith voted yes, Democrat Charniele L. Herring from Alexandria voted no.

big govt liberals always trying to run our lives.

Posted by: millionea7 | January 28, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Medical marijuana amendment HB1136 was killed with a 4-3 vote.

Conservative Republican Morgan Griffith voted yes, Democrat Charniele L. Herring from Alexandria voted no.

big govt liberals always trying to run our lives.

--------

Then I'll take that as your support for allowing gays to marry and have the same equal rights in VA as heterosexuals b/c surely you're against the nanny-state Republicans moralizing about how people should run their life, right? Right.

Posted by: B-rod | January 28, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

One giant step forward for illegal drug dealers, one small step backwards for individual personal freedoms.

Posted by: xfdacsi | January 28, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

"Then I'll take that as your support for allowing gays to marry and have the same equal rights in VA as heterosexuals b/c surely you're against the nanny-state Republicans moralizing about how people should run their life, right? Right."

absolutely.

Posted by: millionea7 | January 28, 2010 12:50 PM | Report abuse

It's a little surprizing they would actually be considering this. I always figured Virginia would be one of the last states to pass medical marijuana laws.
If McDonnell wants a short cut to make up on that $4 Billion shortfall, he should just legalise it completely, then replace the ABC Liquor stores with state run Pot Stores.

Posted by: MarilynManson | January 28, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

If millionea7 is actually a conservative, I pray that people like him/her take over the Republican party one day.

If Republicans were really about smaller central government and keeping that government off citizen's backs (which doesn't preclude protecting Constitutional rights and providing a reasonable social safety net) then I might have become a Republican long ago.

But the Republican party has not really been about these things, not since Nixon at least. It's about pandering to racists, ramming fake "christianity" down everyone's throats and talking small-government while actually making the federal government bigger and bigger.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | January 28, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

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