By Roslyn Ryan


I am not a betting woman by nature, but I like to think I know a safe one when I see it. And in that “safe bet” category, I would respectfully place the following wager: At some point in the near future — maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually —Virginia will follow the lead of at least 10 other states and decriminalize the use of marijuana for recreational use.

Over the past year or so, as the issue has made headlines again and again, plenty of articles and editorials have taken various stances on legalization, from championing the free and unlimited use of marijuana to taking a hard-line position against ever relaxing the current prohibition on the drug.

The state senate, as you may recall, last year unanimously approved a bill allowing physicians to prescribe the use of oil-derived from marijuana, a substance that had previously been allowed only for the treatment of epilepsy.

But even as people across the political spectrum (from Willie Nelson to Glenn Beck) celebrate the move toward legalization, it certainly doesn’t hurt to approach the issue with caution.

Let’s be clear here: drug use isn’t funny.

If you have ever been relegated to the sidelines as someone you love succumbs to a drug addiction, you certainly understand the fear that decriminalizing any drug may send the signal that using isn’t dangerous, or can’t get out of control.

No, marijuana doesn’t have a documented history of causing the kind of devastation that “harder” drugs do. But it is a drug. And decriminalizing without effective regulations— which take time and care to develop and implement — could prove disastrous.

As some of my dearest friends will attest, I have long been waging a semi-public campaign to be named the world’s most boring woman: I don’t smoke, drink, watch superhero movies, eat spicy food or dance. And while I wouldn’t say I’m anti-fun, per se, I am pretty firmly anti-drug.

Yet there are plenty of those nearest and dearest to me who will celebrate the move to decriminalize marijuana as a landmark victory for all Virginians. 

As usual, it would seem the best path forward is somewhere in the middle.

As Virginia continues to soften its stance, the hope is that leaders will be taking careful notice of what has — and hasn’t — worked in other states that have relaxed the rules.

In this case especially, there are benefits to be had from not being first.

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