Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jan 2012
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2012 The Washington Post Company
Author: Anita Kumar


RICHMOND - Del. David L. Englin wants you to know that he's no

The husband, father and Air Force veteran said he has never smoked
marijuana - let alone inhaled - but he still wants to study the
possibility of legalizing the drug in Virginia.

Englin (D-Alexandria) has introduced a bill this legislative session
that would create a group to figure out how much money the state could
reap if it legalized marijuana and sold it in more than 300 Virginia
liquor stores.

"All of the respectable people in our community who are secretly
toking on the side are giving their money to criminals," Englin said.
"Over the years, a surprising number of constituents have said, 'Hey,
David, instead of raising taxes if we need more revenue, why don't we
legalize marijuana and sell it in the ABCUKP' I figure . . . I would
at least start the conversation."

The District has approved marijuana for medical use, and in blue
Maryland, Republicans and Democrats have introduced bills to expand a
law that limits a defendant's criminal liability for the medical use
of marijuana.

But Virginia has become more conservative in recent years. Progressive
issues haven't fared well. It's not the "Virginia way," as some
legislators say.

"We don't see any laws passing in Virginia," said Allen St. Pierre,
executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of
Marijuana Laws. "We see it as a victory if [bills] are passed in one

It's true that the idea has been met with some skepticism - and more
than a few jokes.

Legislators have been known to break into song on the floor ("Can't
you smell that smell? Ooh, ooh that smell") or speak in a voice that
sounds as if they have had a puff or two. Mostly, there have been a
lot of chuckles.

"It would boost ABC revenue, but if David thinks it's going to pass,
he's smoking his own proposal," Del. Robert H. Brink (D-Arlington)

Delegates from the other side of the aisle aren't quite so

"I could say criminals profit from robbing banks, too," Del. David B.
Albo (R-Fairfax) said. "They don't want to make that legal, do they?"

House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said he ran into Englin
in an elevator and told him that the bill would not go anywhere. But
he said it with a smile.

"The people of Virginia aren't ready for that," Howell

Fourteen states have some kind of marijuana decriminalization law; 16
states and the District allow medical cannabis, according to St. Pierre.

Last year, 26 states considered marijuana-related legislation, and he
expects a similar number this year.

Englin's bill, which calls for results of a study by next year's
legislative session, has been sent to the House Rules Committee. No
one - Englin included - expects it will go far.

Englin said that he is not surprised at the response his legislation
has received from his colleagues but that the e-mails and calls to his
office are overwhelmingly in favor of the bill.

"It's a creative and provocative idea, so I'm not surprised by those
kinds of reactions," he said. "You'd be surprised at how many people
who spend their days wearing suits and working in professional
settings in the D.C. metro area and Virginia pull me over and whisper
in my ear and say, 'Great idea.' "

For several years, Del. Harvey B. Morgan, an 81-year-old,
bow-tie-wearing Republican pharmacist from Gloucester County, has
proposed either legalizing marijuana or at least permitting its use
for medical reasons - but with no success and more than a few snickers.

Englin wants people to understand that the legislation is not his top
priority. He has filed more than two dozen bills, including one asking
the governor to petition the federal Drug Enforcement Administration
to move marijuana from a Schedule I drug to Schedule II.

"The bill is getting the respect it's due," Del. Timothy D. Hugo
(R-Fairfax) said, laughing. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.