Friday, March 24, 2023

[Commentary] A Modest Proposal for Virginia Beach and Cannabis

Lifelong resident and businessman David Nygaard is running for Virginia Beach City Council.

When I think about marijuana, I think about people like my dad.

He’s 83-years-old, a retired Navy Captain, and not the typical person you might think could benefit from medical cannabis. Like most senior citizens at this stage of life, he’s had his share of health concerns, with more, inevitably to come.

Nothing is more important to me than seeing that my dad has the highest quality of life possible as my hero enters a golden chapter of his life. That means I want him to have access to all medical options for lessening his aches and pain, and for helping him cope with any number of other conditions that might impact him.

This is why I want to see Virginia Beach embrace medical cannabis, which our General Assembly unanimously supported this past session.

The science on cannabis is very clear at this point: it helps. Research has found that cannabis can decrease tremors for folks with Parkinson’s, and improve quality of life for people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Medical cannabis is a non-addictive pain reduction alternative to opioids. In fact, what I’ve found in my research, is that in states with medical marijuana, they’re finding double digit reductions in opioid prescriptions and opioid-related emergency room visits. Medical cannabis is saving both lives and expense to the healthcare industry.  

Look, I’m no stoner, or any other name people throw around when this topic comes up. I don’t smoke myself and never have.  It’s not my thing — but when it comes to public policy, as your representative on The Virginia Beach City Council, it’s not about me. It’s about listening to you and that means all of you, the citizens.  In order to do that, we have to take an inclusive look at our policies.  It’s time we reconsider this particular policy because it has been a long time. In addition to considering the medical benefits, we also have a responsibility to look at how we can lower the arrest disparity between African Americans and the rest of our population. 

While African-Americans and white people use marijuana at the same rates in Virginia, African-Americans are more than three-times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related crimes. Once arrested, African-Americans are convicted more often, and they serve more time, than their white counterparts.

I will call this what it is – discrimination and it is wrong.  As your city councilperson, I will lead this charge to change our city’s policies toward cannabis.

We spend way too many of our city resources enforcing these out dated laws when there are bigger fish to fry in Virginia Beach. There are other crimes — like domestic violence — that affect our society far more adversely than cannabis.

Did you know that about 41% of murders in Virginia are due to domestic violence? Would you rather the brave men and women of the VBPD be protecting true victims, like those suffering from domestic violence, or picking up kids with dime bags and asking grandparents to pull out their medical history from underneath their wheelchairs?

The answer is obvious. That’s why as your city councilperson, I will push for Virginia Beach to make marijuana crimes our lowest police priority.

I know that Virginia Beach and the Commonwealth are not ready for full adult recreational use of marijuana. These things take time. I get that. But that doesn’t mean we should stand pat on an issue — and industry — that is rapidly evolving around us.

Virginia Beach should have an enlightened view on cannabis. I will bring that perspective to City Council.

I promise to do my best to bring us out of the dark ages of The War on Drugs, and into a time where heroes like my dad have access to all the medical options possible. It’s the right thing to do, and I intend to help Virginia Beach do that right thing.

David Nygaard is a lifelong Virginia Beach resident who has won multiple awards for his work with small businesses. He is running for City Council in Virginia Beach.

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