Smoke signals: Council passes part of pot resolution

City Council passed a resolution to ask the General Assembly to revisit marijuana laws and give consideration to decriminalization in a 3-2 vote Monday night, but backed off the rest of a measure that would have made enforcement of pot possession a low priority for police.

In a packed Council chamber, judging from applause levels, it appeared supporters of the resolution were in the majority, but the first six citizens to speak about the issue opposed it. One cited an addiction to pot for 17 years. Former Jefferson Area Tea Party chair Carol Thorpe urged councilors to support police and leave enforcement to the professionals– rather than instructing police Chief Tim Longo to not enforce the law as they did with Occupy Charlottesville protesters in Lee Park.

And city resident Naomi Roberts declared, "Charlottesville will become the city of potheads and bring more drug lords."

Civil rights attorney Jeffrey Fogel called the war on drugs "a massive and colossal failure," and suggested an ordinance in which Council prohibited the use of pot– and made sure no one goes to jail if convicted.

City Manager Maurice Jones pointed out that of 5,040 arrests police made last year, 113 of them were for marijuana possession.

"We don't spend a lot of resources on enforcing possession laws," Police Chief Tim Longo told the councilors, but said that wasn't a conscious prioritization.

His concerns were as a parent, and he cited a recent Partnership for a Drug Free America survey that found the number of teens who'd smoked pot in 2011 increased and the number of heavy-pot-smoking teens had jumped 80 percent.

Tom von Hemert with Offender Aid and Restoration noted that the National Association of Drug Courts opposed decriminalization. "The use of marijuana is very hard to give up," he said.

Ross Carew, assistant director of OAR, said, "The folks convicted [on marijuana charges] were second only to domestic violence in the risk of recidivism," and that convicted pot possessors had a 42 percent reconviction rate.

"This has been the cause of some heartburn and sleepless nights," said Councilor Kathy Galvin, the mother of 16- and 20-year-old sons."What does this say to school children?" she asked.

Galvin challenged the part of the resolution that said enforcement was a burden on police and that the health risks of marijuana were benign. She cited scientific evidence linking pot smoking and schizophrenia and noted that reefer holds 50 to 70 percent more carcinogens than cigarettes, raises the heart rate, and causes people to experience more health problems and miss more work.

She described the resolution as being only symbolic, and said, "Council is being used as a bully pulpit."

Mayor Satyendra Huja joined Galvin in voting against the resolution, relying, he said, on local experts who said long-term use can lead to addiction and produce psychosis. "More importantly," he said, "what kind of message are we sending to children?"

Councilors Dave Norris and Dede Smith supported the resolution.

Norris quoted a report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a panel that included former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Secretary of State George Schultz: "Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won."

He also told a story about his uncle, who suffered from cancer, and his grandmother obtained marijuana for him, but worried about scoring dope. "What's the appropriate sentence for my grandmother?" he asked.

Smith questioned the penalties for people caught with small amounts of marijuana that include loss of driving privileges for six months. "People's lives are impacted by a very small amount [of marijuana] they imbibe on occasion," she said.

"If it were legal, we'd have much more control," added Smith. "Because we don't, it's a black market."

Councilor Kristin Szakos was the swing vote on the resolution. She voiced concerns about racial disparity among those arrested and said they were four times more likely to be African American. She said she favored decriminalization, but had concerns about other parts of the resolution.

Szakos said she would support the final paragraph on the resolution, which asks the governor and General Assembly to revisit sentencing guidelines for simple possession and give consideration to state bills that would decriminalize, legalize, or regulate marijuana like alcohol.

"That would take it out of the criminal field and put it in public health," she said.

After that version of the resolution passed, Naomi Roberts said, "I'm not surprised they passed it. They're so liberal."

And Fogel reminded that Pat Robertson now favors legalization of pot. Said Fogel, "I think the time is long overdue to make a change."

Correction May 8: Dave Norris' ill relative was misidentified in the original version.

Clarification May 8: The Partnership for a Drug-free America survey that claims an 80 percent increase for teen pot smokers refers to heavy smokers and it's a number that rose from 5 percent to 9 percent.

Read more on: city councilmarijuana


"Tom von Hemert with Offender Aid and Restoration noted that the National Association of Drug Courts opposed decriminalization. "The use of marijuana is very hard to give up," he said."

Surprise! Surprise! a group of people who make their living off of criminalizing drug use are opposed to decriminalization. The real question is does it matter if people give marijuana up? Maybe for some, but we don't ban sodas because some people drink too many and get fat.

@saywha? re: "...we don't ban sodas because some people drink too many and get fat."

You need to pay closer attention to the news. That's exactly what The First Lady, a recent candidate for the City school board, and other liberals who comprise "The Food Police" would do, if they had their way. LOL!

"C-ville will become a city of pot heads" It's reefer madness all over again. I also heard marijewana makes you a communist. C-ville is a city of pot heads. Or people who are comfortable making choices about what they put in their body. Be it pot, soda, KFC or whatever. We don't need Ms. Roberts who has never had any fun in her life telling us how to live ours. We the people can live our own lives without anyone telling us how to live it. For most republicans I imagine this concept unimaginable. Cheers folks! I'm a go hit the vapo!

Prohibition has finally run its course; our prisons are full, our economy is in ruins, the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans have been destroyed or severely disrupted, and what was once a shining beacon of liberty and prosperity has become a toxic, repressive, smoldering heap of hypocrisy and a gross affront to fundamental human decency.

Accordingly, it is now the duty of every last one of us to insure that the people who are responsible for this shameful situation are not simply left in peace to enjoy the wealth and status that their despicable actions have, until now, afforded them. Former and present Prohibitionists must not be allowed to remain untainted and untouched from the unconscionable acts that they have viciously committed on their fellow citizens. - They have provided us with neither safe communities nor safe streets; we will provide them with neither a safe haven to enjoy their ill-gotten gains nor the liberty to repeat such a similar atrocity!

If you're a bottom-dwelling, scum-sucking prohibitionist who's career has entailed subjecting the rest of us to off-the-scale corruption and lawlessness, then maybe you should consider moving to somewhere that won't extradite you to a future national or international drug-war tribunal for your crimes against humanity.

Prohibition has evolved local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, helping them control vast swaths of territory while gifting them with significant social and military resources.

Those responsible for the shameful policy of prohibition shall not go unpunished!

Civil rights attorney Jeffrey Fogel called the war on drugs "a massive and colossal failure," and suggested an ordinance in which Council prohibited the use of pot– and made sure no one goes to jail if convicted.


I would like to compare the arrest rates and convictions of alcohol related crimes and infractions which is legal yet has long hurt more families, causes more health related issues and death than the use of marijuana.

The US battled the Columian cartels and finally "won" only to now have it move closer with the Mexican cartels who are more deadly, vicious and violent. We spent millions on this war where we are not winning.

It also is bogas (and has been proven so) to state that marijuana use leads to other drugs, if that is the drug of choice by an individual and is available, that is what they would choose. It has been used medicinally for many ailments, disease and other chronic issues and proven to be more effective than other drug therapies. I don't want my children to be able to go to the store and buy a pack, but I don't want them to have the ability to buy a pack of cigerettes or a six pack of beer either.

We are not stopping the demand. The demand is there and to meet that demand (of all drugs) the criminals and drug dealers are causing deaths, damaging society. Lest we forget the Prohibition Era?

Marijuana prohibition has created more problems than it's solved. Time for it to end.

"Marijuana is bad! The problems are getting worse! Let's continue to do the same thing we have been doing for decades!"

By becoming lax on drug laws, we are limiting the job opportunities for our young adults. Just about every major employer in the area does drug screenings before hiring.

Police Chief Timothy Longo and the Hook staff both need to take a look at the original survey.

It does not, contrary to your article, reveal that "the number of teens who'd smoked pot in the past month had jumped 80 percent."

This is from the Executive Summary:

"Past-month use has increased 42 percent from 19 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2011. Heavy monthly use (20 or more times) is up 80 percent from 5 percent to 9 percent in 2011."

The 80% refers, then, to an increase from 5 to 9 percent of "heavy" users.

But it's a big number and sexy, and that makes for good headlines. It also helps Police Chiefs misuse scientific information in order to support the failed policy of cannabis prohibition.

Please correct your text, which not only attributes these numbers to Longo, but strongly implies that they are correct per the survey, which they are not.

Reason's Jacob Sullum adds this observation about this study: "The increase hyped by the Partnership happened almost entirely between 2008 and 2009. Since then the numbers have been basically flat. Furthermore, the numbers recorded last year are virtually indistinguishable from the numbers recorded in 1998, the earliest year for which the new report includes data."

Propaganda, anyone?

At a minimum lobby the state government to remove the mandatory suspension of your driver's license (6 months) even if the arrest/seizure of marijuan has nothing to do with driving. Furthermore, a 1/2 ounce should not be a presumptive felony - what a joke.

Propaganda has always been the linchpin of the war on drugs. In the early 20th century, the media and police were telling everyone that black men who used cocaine would become monsters who would not stop attacking even after being shot in the heart. In the 30s, marijuana was said to fuel jazz music and cause white women to seek sex with black men. In the 80s, it was said that by the beginning of the 21st century there would be an entire generation of "crack babies" who would be unable to perform in school or on the job. In the 90s, they demanded that prime time TV shows alter their scripts to portray drug using teenagers as unpopular losers.

Why all this propaganda? Simple: it convinces everyone that certain drugs must be fought "at all cost." This ensures that pharmaceutical companies will face less competition from easy to produce medicines, that private prison companies will continue to expand their business, that industrial hemp will never compete with synthetics, and most importantly, that the police can continue to increase their power. When black cocaine users were unstoppable monsters, the police increased the caliber of their pistols. After World War II, hemp ceased to be used -- and synthetic fibers replaced it. The 1970s saw the creation of paramilitary police forces, and gave the executive office the power to declare drugs to be illegal without any democratic process (and then arrest people for possessing those drugs). The 1980s saw the rise of asset forfeitures. In this century, the prison industry is considered to be a growth industry (remember that we have a larger prison population than any other country, even China), and the DEA has a larger signals intelligence system than many nations' intelligence services.

The fact that thousands of innocent people have been killed for no reason other than a botched raid by a paramilitary drug squad is considered to be an acceptable cost...because of propaganda. The fact that the posse comitatus act is basically irrelevant these days is considered an acceptable cost...because of propaganda. The fact that researchers are raided for publishing opinions that the government does not like is considered acceptable...because of propaganda. The fact that our schoolchildren are fed propaganda by the police and told to report their parents' private activities to the government is considered acceptable because of propaganda.

This needs to stop, and it needs to stop now. This is not what life in America is supposed to be.

"The US battled the Columian cartels and finally "won" only to now have it move closer with the Mexican cartels who are more deadly, vicious and violent. We spent millions on this war where we are not winning."

Most pot around here is locally grown or from california. Also the mexican cartels, while they do run weed Over the border its mostly cocain and human trafficing.

Also these people that opose decrimenalization should advocate prohibition of booze if they dont want tO come off hypocritical. Lets he honest, wheather or not you think marijuanas harmful, you have to admit alchohal is much worse. Im still drunk from last night and i feel like an a%*hole. Tonight i think ill role a spliff and watch cartoons, that way i wont bother people with my drunken slurring rants

I like this quote... "I think passing such a resolution ... would detract from community health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” said Huja.

Safety... fix the damn Belmont bridge so I can walk across the closed side so I don't get run over by some senile old codger on my way to work.

Keeping this drug illegal is pushing it to underground and shady criminals who end up lacing the drug with whatever they want to which will get you addicted or add more weight to the product. The stuff they lace it with can cause many different health problems. If you suspect your kid may be smoking marijuana I strongly suggest you take a look at what they could end up smoking because of the government being greedy and trying to throw the issue under the carpets by saying there are more important issues. This has went on long enough as it is. We do not want these criminals to continue to control this relatively harmless substance. Please legalize and regulate it for the sake of our youth and our future.

"An acre of the best ground for hemp, is to be selected and sewn in hemp and be kept for a permanent hemp patch." - Thomas Jefferson's Garden book

Makes great rope and paper.

Those that owned timber wanted hemp illegal so their forest would be in demand and profitable. Probably why people always yack about the singular use of smoking hemp instead of the thousands of other uses that do not require sucking smoke into lungs. I expect TJ knew this too.

It should be decriminalized and a ticket issued with fines escalating for further offenses. We do not need a complete hands off policy so thast the bums on the mall smoke weed like cigarettes. Let that evolve for a couple of years and see how it works.

I'm glad to see that Kathy Galvin continually raises the question of whether or not it's Council's mission to address an issue. Meanwhile Dave, Dede, and Kristin are probably busy drafting a statement on space exploration.

The weed today is dangerous when used in excess. Way too strong and getting stronger.
Forget about applying for a job that requires any degree of occupational safety..
But also forget about trying to legislate behavior.

huh, Withington must be getting the good stuff, LOL!

Wonder what percentage of people in Albemarle and Charlottesville have used pot in the past year? My guess: 20 percent! There is zero reason for pot to be illegal. Tax it, make it safer, grow it organically on farms around here, educate kids against using it till they are old enough and are finished growing.

I have chronic pain and nothing works better at relieving my misery. And I've tried more than a dozen legal drugs

If you can have chickens and goats in the city, then you should be able to have a couple of pot plants in your yard as well. This is America. I'm not talking about legalizing cocaine or meth...Use our DEA to target real felons. Reassign them to go after real criminals.

Does city council do any real work, or do they just talk about doing things like this and getting rid of statues?Guess that is what you get from people who make 5 grand a year.

Actually methamphetamine is legal by prescription and is sometimes given to children. That is how you know that people who claim the war on drugs is about public safety or protecting children are either ignorant or lying. Marijuana, LSD, and numerous other illegal recreational drugs are less dangerous than pharmaceuticals, including some of the pharmaceuticals that were developed as replacements for illegal drugs (e.g. spice products). Pharmaceutical methamphetamine is only "safer" than what comes out of a meth lab in the sense of well-controlled production methods; otherwise, the drug is just as brain-damaging and dangerous.

Do not believe everything the government tells you; like any drug, whatever problems society is having with methamphetamine are issues of public health, not law enforcement. Paramilitary forces running around this country killing people and their pets (what do you think happens when a dog starts barking during a raid?) do absolutely nothing to address public health problems. The DEA is a much bigger threat to America than any drugs have ever been.

I don't believe the government, I believe the Hook, because I "Can handle the Truth", LOL!

City Council is full of do nothings. A resolution to the State that will be laughed at is like passing the the buck. Why don't they spend time on actually doing something that has an actual effect in Charlottesville. Isn't that why we elected them? Why didn't they spend more time on and act on the policy direction to the local police?

Its so easy to just say we need a state solution or we need a metropolitan solution to our problems, let's study it some more.

This like the recent Juvenile Justice disparities study session, they took a 2009 report that had action recommendations and just waffled to the point of appointing another task force or something. I mean really a 2009 report and we are just now getting around to considering it and the result is more task forces. Kick the can.

Same thing with the Human Rights Commission, instead of appointing the commission based on the DOR endorsed proposal, they appointed another task force to study it for a year. Kick the can.

Why can't the City Council do anything substantive when it comes to social issues? I think we need to think about this when it comes to the next election. The incumbents are not acting with leadership to tackle difficult problems in the community. If all you got in your tool kit is to recommend more studies and passing symbolic resolutions that have no substantive impact or kvetching about Civil War Statues, then its time to get out of City politics.

We should not let them get away with this, we should expect more from our elected officials.

yeah, fix the Belmont bridge

I'm against it, but that's partly because I don't smoke it. Just don't feel the need to spend my free time stoned.

Obviously the same rules should apply for being high as being drunk; stay out of situations where you can hurt others or yourself. But I would think that moderate drinking would be overall safer for your health than moderate smoking. Your lungs don't like small particles that much, lung cancer anyone?

Actually, the cancer risk from smoking marijuana is very low, possibly non-existent, according to the research, despite the presence of carcinogens in marijuana smoke. More important is that marijuana can be consumed without smoking, without carcinogens; this is in stark contrast to tobacco, which increases the risk of cancer regardless of how it is consumed. Alcohol increases the carcinogenic effect of tobacco when the two drugs are combined. Unlike alcohol and tobacco, there are no recorded cases of anyone dying from a marijuana overdose.

If anything, marijuana is one of the safest drugs that a person could use.

No one has ever died from ingesting pot. No ONE EVER....

Now, driving under the influence, yes, people have died....But, no one has ever overdosed or died from smoking pot EVER.....

How many people died from booze last year alone? How many died from Tylenol, aspirin, and god forbid Oxy/Hydrocodone?

If you smoke weed from a vaporizer, you get rid of all the particulates and only get the cannabinoids.It's very safe, and will not cause lung cancer. It's also an up-buzz and not a Beavis and Butthead like stoniness. Bye-Bye pain...

Does "Brain Dead" count? I know a few brain dead dopers

The locals herein posting inclined to all out empathize with NORML: It sure seems to have that appearance like, these particular Hook readers want to sure stuff as much crow down in the mouth holes of those who slightly or totally disagree with them.

Just saying..... whether for medicinal purposes - valid or not so.