Cannabis in the Commonwealth: Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates on Marijuana

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director September 6, 2013

    One of, if not the, highest profile election this year is the Virginia gubernatorial race. Things are beginning to heat up as we enter the final two month stretch before the election on November 5th and NORML thought it was worth looking at how the issue of marijuana law reform has come into play.

    There are three candidates on the ballot vying for the position: Terry McAuliffe (Democrat), Ken Cuccinelli (Republican), and Robert Sarvis (Libertarian).


    Robert Sarvis (Libertarian Candidate)

    Robert Sarvis (Libertarian Candidate)

    Libertarian nominee Robert Sarvis is campaigning with marijuana law reform as a central plank in his platform. In response to a NORML candidate survey, Sarvis stated: “I support the full legalization of marijuana. If that is politically unfeasible in Virginia, I would support an intermediate step like decriminalization of possession and allowing medical marijuana.”

    In an interview with a local FOX affiliate, Sarvis elaborated on his position, stating “I think these [marijuana] laws … are very expensive to enforce. They do a lot of damage to families and communities. They lead to high incarceration rates and unemployment rates when people can’t get jobs.”

    You can read his drug policy platform here.

    Ken Cuccinelli (Republican Candidate)

    Ken Cuccinelli (Republican Candidate)

    Republican Ken Cuccinelli made some statements about marijuana policy early in the campaign, but has largely remained silent since the beginning of this year and has not answered specifics such as which measures, if any, he would support and sign into law.

    Responding to a student question while speaking to a class at the University of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli said he was “evolving” on the marijuana issue.

    “I don’t have a problem with states experimenting with this sort of thing I think that’s the role of states,” Cuccinelli stated, “I’m not sure about Virginia’s future [re: marijuana legalization], but I and a lot of people are watching Colorado and Washington to see how it plays out.”

    “What I expressed to [the students] was an openness to observe how things work there, both in terms of the drug side and the economics. One issue that is often discussed is how the war on drugs itself has played out. Have we done this the right way? It’s been phenomenally expensive.”

    Discussing the issue at a later event, Cuccinelli said that, “[If we are] going to put people in jail and spend $25,000 [to] $30,000 a year for a prison bed, do we want it to be for someone who’s pushing marijuana or pushing meth? I’ll tell you what, that $30,000 for the meth pusher is well worth the deal.”

    He stated that “I’m ready to watch and learn. I’m not ready to do it [legalize marijuana] but I don’t want to just never ever say never to the possibility in the future.”

    He clarified this isn’t an issue he expects to take up if he wins the election. “I don’t want you to think that I’m going to land in the governor’s office and sign a legalization bill. I don’t think you have to worry about it getting to the governor’s desk but it’s worth knowing what your candidate’s saying.”

    Terry McAuliffe (Democratic Candidate) - Photo Credit: David Shankbone

    Terry McAuliffe (Democratic Candidate) – Photo Credit: David Shankbone

    The Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, has not issued any statements or formalized positions on marijuana law reform.

    Join NORML in asking the candidates to clarify their positions when it comes to marijuana!

    Click here to contact the McAuliffe campaign and here to contact the Cuccinelli campaign.

    Below is a template letter you can send or personalize as you see fit:

    “As a Virginia voter, I believe one of the most important issues facing our state is its failed war against marijuana. Before I decide which candidate to support this November, I’d like you to clarify your position on marijuana law reform.

    Would you support legislation to allow for the medical use of cannabis and provide Virginia’s seriously ill patients with safe access to a medicine with fewer side effects and no risk of fatal overdose compared with conventional narcotic medications?

    Would you support decriminalizing the possession of marijuana and halting the arrests of over 18,000 Virginians annually at the cost of 67 million dollars per year?

    Would you consider supporting a regulated system for the adult use of marijuana, taking the profits away from criminal cartels, putting control in the hands of regulated businesses, and implementing age restrictions and regulations to decrease youth access?

    This is an issue that is inversely impacting countless thousands of Virginians. It erodes our civil liberties and wastes over 67 million dollars a year to arrest non-violent cannabis consumers. I’d appreciate hearing your position on this important matter.”

    You can also tweet at the candidates @TerryMcAuliffe and @KenCuccinelli and ask them to take a position:

    Note: We are not including Libertarian Robert Sarvis as a target for these messages, as he already has formalized and publicized his marijuana policy position. If you wish to contact that campaign you can view his website here and Twitter page here.

    You can get involved with marijuana law reform in the Commonwealth by following Virginia NORML here.

    23 responses to “Cannabis in the Commonwealth: Virginia Gubernatorial Candidates on Marijuana”

    1. mexweed says:

      Appear at Libertarian rallies, support the Libertarian campaign, help Sarvis speak out and get included in debates, etc., then vote for the Democrat. Bear in mind that even a reasonable, open-minded Republican candidate is under pressure from a Republican electorate that is 20 percentage points more ANTI-cannabis-legalization than the Democrat equivalent, and Big 2WackGo gives almost twice as much campaign money to Reps as to Dems hoping to keep cannabis illegal.

    2. JJ says:

      Hey people, John McCain just came out saying “we should probably give legalization a chance”. Keep on it guys. I know I will never change my representative’s view (Steve King) but we can keep on these people and show them the light.

    3. Jason Rawley says:

      @jj John McCain will just go with whatever tide big business wants. Rest assured if the republicans get involved in the legalization we’ll pay a huge price.

    4. thisishteend says:

      Not one more nonviolent pot offender needs to clog our system. Focusing on real criminals and decriminalizing certain medicinal drugs is the way to go. Legalise it.

    5. Paulpot says:

      There is a lot of attention focused on Colorado and Washington for good reason and I hope that definitive survey’s are being done to determine the effect legalization has on those states.

    6. Joel: the other Joel says:

      Please know your candidates and vote.

    7. Anonymous1 says:

      The polls will always be smeared. “Polls taken by biased sources” will always be an attempt at discrediting honest efforts.

      While I agree with Paulpot, keep in mind that all eyes are on Colorado and Washington, but not eyes from the same sides. Anti-cannabis lobbyists are looking for reasons to fudge things up, and pro-cannabis reformers are looking for statistics to further back the legalization.

    8. Matt says:

      why bother voting democrat? just vote libertarian. we have a democratic president in office that just laughed in our faces when asked about legalizing. THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN REPUB AND DEMO! time for something new.

    9. Demonhype says:

      That’s funny. The way things look, there is no difference between Libertarians and Republicans. They have the same values from what I’m looking at (such as “rich people are just better than you, that’s why they’re rich/individual rights based on money”, and the biggest difference is that Libertarians are just non-fundie Republicans. There’s a reason Libertarians aren’t tacked onto the Dems and are always associated with the Republicans. If the Libs got in, they’d be just like the Repubs, and the only reason they’re standing for us is because they aren’t entrenched like the Repubs and can afford to take a risk if it will serve their cause.

      Now I agree the Dems aren’t liberal. They’re what the rest of the world calls “center Right” and their moving ever right-ward, and they do kiss a lot of Big Business butt. But they’re not exactly like the Republicans and there are significant differences. At least there’s a chance we can take control of this party, like the extremists took control of the Repubs, and move the Overton window back to where it belongs.

    10. Demonhype says:

      To clarify: if Romney had won, he’d be going Storm Trooper on the legalization movement by now. Washington and Colorado wouldn’t be moving to enact their legalization policies, they’d be putting out the fires from the DEA agents smashing down doors and crushing the movement, jailing any who oppose them. And it would have happened immediately. We would never have gotten even this far if the Repubs had won, and the main problems we’ve been having at improving this country have primarily been from GOP obstructionism.

      If the Republicans won, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all right now. I’d say that’s a pretty big difference.