Trudy Berry: Marijuana legislation is not perfect

Editor’s Note: After last week’s Q & A, State Sen. Frank Ruff wanted to add a bit more to the discussion we had on marijuana. To be fair, we reached out to his opponent in this year’s race, Trudy Berry, asking if she too wanted to add anything further. Here’s both of their responses.

Trudy Berry

Trudy Berry
Candidate for State Senate

I won’t defend or make excuses for how marijuana legislation was passed, but amending Article IV, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia to extend the regular legislative sessions by 60 days would allow more time to read and genuinely act upon proposed legislation.

Rather than dwell on the motives of how, when, and why proposed legislation is pushed and who pushes it for a vote in any given session, legislators should stop practicing one-upmanship and work together to make legislation the best it can be.

Giving preferential licensing consideration to those who have past drug convictions helps to alleviate the harm that the “War on Drugs” and simple marijuana possession infractions caused disproportionate numbers of low income people, especially people of color. It helps level the playing field to make sure opportunities exist so that there is diversity, equity, and inclusion in the retail marijuana market.

My opponent, Senator Ruff, voted against legislation that was proposed to establish a legal framework for the sale of recreational marijuana. The legislation is not perfect, it is a work in progress, but has he proposed any solutions that address his concerns that will help bring the legislation closer to perfection? One of his concerns is underground markets, but underground markets will always pop up – there is opportunity for crime in every endeavor no matter how strong the legislation is – and is no reason to block the establishment of a retail marijuana market. Virginia had its share of bootlegging during prohibition and, according to the Tax Foundation, Virginia had a 22.8% outbound cigarette smuggling rate in 2018.

Rather than ask his constituents to “remember which political party caused this fiasco and vote accordingly”, maybe Senator Ruff should ask himself why he is criticizing and finger-pointing rather than working to help the marijuana market become a safe enterprise.

Furthermore, with the election in less than two weeks (November 7), I wonder why Senator Ruff, a 24-year incumbent, chose to use an op-ed to condemn Democrats rather than to let his constituents know what he is doing to uplift lives and improve the economy by reducing the cost of housing and to support and fund Career & Technical Education (CTE) through the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. I had the pleasure of attending their CTE Showcase & Community Call to Action and am amazed with their operation and pleased to see how it aligns with my vision for skills training in our high schools and placement in paid apprenticeship (also known as internship) positions.

Trudy Berry is a candidate for the District 9 State Senate seat in the Virginia General Assembly. You can reach her at berryforsenator@gmail.com