Virginia Domestic Violence Victim Charged for Cannabis Consumption During Court Testimony

A Virginia Circuit Judge stopped a domestic violence victim mid-testimony to jail her for alleged cannabis use.

Loudon County Circuit Judge James P. Fisher in Virginia, who was recently presiding over a domestic violence case, sentenced the victim to 10 days in jail after she admitted that she smoked cannabis earlier that day. Fisher had her removed from the stands mid-testimony by multiple deputies, as described by a brief from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. The victim served two days in jail, and was released on a bond of $1,000.

According to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Elena Ventura, the victim received less than ideal treatment. “In the middle of a difficult (cross examination), she was detained, interrogated, arrested and removed from the courtroom,” the situation is cited in the brief, according to the Virginia Mercury. Ventura also described her as “not treated with the respect, sensitivity or dignity required by law.”

The brief mentions that the victim was visibly nervous as she testified for an hour-and-a-half. Her abuser had been found guilty of abuse twice in the past. However, the brief states that despite the nature of the case and the victim’s mental state, Fisher proceeded with “intense and assertive questioning focused on drug-addiction and infidelity.” He spoke with detectives who had spoken with her before the trial, and described her behavior as consistent and showed no signs of impairment or intoxication.

According to the authors of the brief, Fisher’s reaction poses a threat to future cases which “may create a chilling effect surrounding victim willingness to testify in cases of domestic violence, an area of law already replete with victims recanting and/or refusing to cooperate, due to the extensive trauma domestic violence victims experience through the cycle of power and control, especially in cases where victims have mental health concerns, as… in the case at bar.”

Unfortunately, Fisher has had similar reactions on previous cases in the past. He sentenced a divorce lawyer to one night in jail for contempt of court when she asked him to clarifying his ruling. However, it is within his right as a judge to pose a $250 fine and jail individuals for up to 10 days if they misbehave, exhibit violent behavior, or use inappropriate language, according to the Virginia contempt statute.

The attorney who is representing the victim, Thomas K. Plofchan, Jr. of Westlake Legal Group, also supported the claim that she did nothing wrong, and didn’t deserve to be treated in that manner. “She did not admit to doing any illegal activity nor did she admit to being under the influence in the courtroom,” Plofchan, Jr. states. “There was no slurring of her words, nothing that indicated that she had taken some sort of intoxicant that affected her speech or muscular movement.”

Even local legislators, such as Senator Jennifer Boysko, a representative of Loudoun County, noted that there’s a history of not protecting victims in cases such as these, when instead they should be treated with “respect and dignity.” Likewise, Senator Scott Surovell brought up the question of how things would have proceeded if she had admitted to consuming alcohol earlier that morning instead of cannabis.

Recreational cannabis possession and cultivation has been legal in Virginia since July 1, although sales aren’t expected to occur until January 1, 2024. Although this is progress for southern states such as Virginia, there is clearly still more that needs to be done so that cannabis consumption isn’t grounds for punishment in an unrelated case. For now, a hearing is set for next week to vacate the contempt charge.

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Cannabis-Related Arrests in Virginia Decrease By 90 Percent After Legalization

Virginia cannabis law went into effect on July 1, 2021, and in a little over two months since that starting date, the county of Richmond has experienced a shocking decrease in cannabis-related arrests. 

The new law legalizes cannabis possession up to one ounce, as well as cultivation of up to four personal plants per household, but requires that the grower tags their plants with their driver’s license/ID and a note saying that they are being grown for personal use.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, cannabis arrests have decreased by 90 percent in the state’s capitol. During the first seven weeks of the law’s enactment (with data collected from July 1 to August 20), reports show that there were 20 arrests in Chesterfield, two in Henrico, zero in Hanover and three in Richmond for a total of 25 arrests. In July and August of 2020, there were 257 arrests.

“A 90 percent reduction in marijuana arrests indicates that the public policy is performing as intended and in a manner that is consistent with post-legalization observations from other states,” said National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws development director and executive director of the Virginia NORML chapter Jenn Michelle Pedini.

Due to the newness of the law’s enactment, some of the offenders claim to be unaware of what the law does and does not allow. Ten of the arrests ranged between 18 to 20 years of age and were charged with underage possession (which is only a civil penalty). The law states that anyone over age 21 may possess up to one ounce of cannabis, but consuming in public is prohibited. Seven of the 20 people who were charged with cannabis-related arrests were 16 or 17 years old.


Virginia Clarifies New Law

Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz shared that his law enforcement officers haven’t “shied away” from current laws, and that it’s important to arrest people in the name of public safety. While they’re not seeking out cannabis-related arrests, they will make a charge if it’s applicable.

Some of the recorded arrests were for more than just underage possession, though. One individual from Chesterfield was caught growing an estimated 50 cannabis plants and also could not provide the grower’s name or driver’s license to prove that they were permitted. 

Prior to the new law’s enactment, Katz released a statement on Facebook on June 25, along with a Chesterfield County Police educational YouTube video, trying to help the local community understand what the law entails. 

“Virginia, we have a problem. A lot of folks believe that as of July 1, 2021, the possession and use of marijuana is legal within the Commonwealth. In reality, it’s not that simple,” he shared. “We feel an obligation to those we serve to provide a little context into some of the more granular nuances of this widely misunderstood legislation… but even this brief animated summary doesn’t replace an in-depth review of the law as passed. The devil is in the details, as they say… and like all laws passed by our legislature, it is our charge to encourage compliance and enforce violations. Ignorance of the law isn’t a defense, so we encourage everyone to be both informed and safe.” 

Katz isn’t a supporter of the law as it currently stands. He tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch that although possession is allowed, there aren’t any sales fronts for people to purchase cannabis from. Instead, they must either grow their own plants or revert to buying cannabis off the black market. Cannabis sales regulations aren’t expecting to roll out until January 1, 2024, although there are efforts underway to try for an earlier start.

According to New Frontier Data, cannabis-related arrests have been decreasing steadily since 2017. There were an estimated 27,852 total cannabis arrests in the state of Virginia in 2017, 28,866 in 2018, 26,470 in 2019 and a dramatic decrease of 13,674 in 2020.

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Virginia Lawmakers Push for Earlier Launch of Cannabis Retail Sales

Virginia state lawmakers are calling for an earlier start to licensed sales of recreational marijuana, arguing that the delay between the legalization of cannabis possession and the launch of regulated retailers will encourage illicit sales. But some legislators are wary that the idea could jeopardize the state’s cannabis social equity program before it gets off the ground and are urging their colleagues to proceed with caution.

At the inaugural meeting of Virginia’s Joint Commission on Cannabis Oversight on Tuesday, Democratic Delegate Paul Krizek told his fellow lawmakers that marijuana reform as it now stands leaves the state’s residents in a legal quandary.

“We have legalized the use of marijuana, but we have not legalized the actual purchase of marijuana,” said Krizek.

“What we need to do is get the safe sales of marijuana out there as soon as possible,” he added.

Virginia Cannabis Possession Legalized In July

In April, Virginia state lawmakers passed a bill to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana. Under that legislation, personal possession of cannabis became legal on July 1. But licensed sales of recreational marijuana are not slated to begin until 2024, a delay designed to give regulators time to draft rules and issue licenses to adult-use cannabis businesses. At Tuesday’s meeting, Krizek said that the lack of licensed retailers can be confusing for consumers, who may mistakenly buy from illicit suppliers.

“People know it’s legal, and they probably think they can buy it legally. And it’s going to become more and more difficult to explain that to the general public,” he said. “We don’t want to facilitate an illegal market out there.”

Several lawmakers have expressed support for a proposal that would allow the state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis to all adults 21 and older. Under current regulations, medical marijuana dispensaries are only permitted to serve patients registered with the state pharmacy board.

The proposal would require medical marijuana dispensaries that wish to serve adult-use customers to serve as a business incubator for five applicants that qualify for the state’s upcoming cannabis social equity program, which is designed to help ensure that members of communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs have a path to business ownership in the legal market.

Ngiste Abebe, the vice president of public policy at medical marijuana licensee Columbia Care, told local media that the plan to allow recreational cannabis customers to purchase at medical dispensaries would be a benefit for consumers and the nascent industry.

“Every other state that has legalized cannabis has leveraged their existing medical market to not just increase access but generate the tax revenue and funds for social equity priorities,” said Abebe.

Not All Lawmakers On Board With Early Launch

However, not all lawmakers are in favor of an early launch for retail cannabis sales in Virginia. House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, also a Democrat, is concerned that the plan could work against the goals of the social equity program, noting that other state programs designed to help businesses owned by women or people of color have not always been successful.

“A minority or woman is brought in, and a company says, ‘We’ll incubate you. You’re a partner. Wink,’” Herring said. “Then they get access to a social equity license. It does harm to the whole spirit of what we were trying to do.”

The majority leader warned her colleagues in the legislature to consider all consequences of changing the current legalization timeline.

“If we go down that route, let’s really be careful,” Herring said of the plan for early recreational cannabis sales, “because we do not want to make the mistakes of the past, where it’s not in the spirit of what was intended.”

Democratic Senator Adam Ebbin, the chair of the joint oversight commission, said it is too early to know if moving up the launch of retail cannabis sales will be translated into a bill for the next legislative session, which begins in January. But he said the matter is “an important issue to flag.”

“It’s worthy of this subcommittee to consider if it can be done while still ensuring robust participation by social equity applicants,” he said.

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Episode 359 – No Marijuana for Mississippi

Dr. Jahan Marcu, Heather Sullivan, and Paul Rosen join host Ben Larson to talk about the rejection of medical marijuana legalization by the Mississippi Supreme Court, the merger of Tilray and Aphria as well as other large cannabis acquisitions, as well as the current state of legal hemp and delta-8 THC. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr/

Episode 357 – Canna Bumps? Canna No.

Dr. Jahan Marcu and Andrea Brooks join host Heather Sullivan to talk about the science of cannabis, the troubling development of the Canna Bumps brand, and what it takes to succeed as a legal marijuana delivery company in California. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Zion Herbals: Pushing the Limits of CBD

Zion Herbals is carrying their motto, “strictly the best,” into all they do. 

Founded in 2010, the Richmond, Virginia-based botanicals and extracts brand offers a wide range of hemp products, all designed to give users clean, effective and consistent results for an improved sense of well-being. 

In order to maintain control over the entire manufacturing process and ensure the highest quality from seed-to-sale, Zion Herbals sources hemp from their Oregon and Virginia hemp farms. Both farms are located on land that has been untouched for over 100 years, and are completely free of chemicals, pesticides and processed fertilizers. Only bat guano and fish emulsion are used for fertilization. Although they don’t have the USDA certification, all farming is organic and follows a a Rastafarian level of purity known as “Ital.” 

Zion Herbals is the flagship brand of parent company BotanaWay, which offers white label manufacturing and branding services for approximately 40 brands and provides hemp cannabinoid extracts for more than 200 brands. For BotanaWay founder and CEO, David Reynolds Derian, Zion Herbals is an outlet where he can showcase the company’s high-quality extractions via in-house formulations in a variety of delivery methods—from tinctures and pressed tablets to pre-rolls and liquid gels.

“We always offer a higher level of purity and lab-verified cleanliness with less residual solvents then can be found anywhere in the industry,” he said. “Strictly the best is our motto, and that is what we’re known for.”

Pushing the Limits of Extraction

Zion Herbals pushes extraction methods to over 99% pure, meaning a complete isolation of the cannabinoids. Their Delta-8 THC is at 95% purity, compared to most competitors on the market, which rank in the high 80s.  Once purity reaches the high nineties, the oil becomes crystal clear, like water. 

“You can visibly see its cleanliness,” Derian said.

The company’s proprietary extraction process uses multiple extraction methods in order to reach this high level of purity with the end-result being a completely solvent-free extract. 

“The final steps to get to the higher stages are super expensive and difficult,” Derian said, explaining that a greater level of knowledge and understanding around safety is required, as well as additional lab equipment. 

A higher level of purity doesn’t necessarily make for a stronger product. However, when cannabinoids are surrounded by fewer impurities, they can bind to the body’s receptors more effectively. This translates to a cleaner, healthier, and more well-rounded experience. 

“Steps of pushing it to the extreme are costly, but these are things we don’t avoid,” Derian said. “I believe we are a couple steps ahead. By the time others get to where we are, we are going to be on another plateau.”

Refined Delivery 

Zion Herbals intentionally stays away from more recreationally inspired consumption methods, such as gummy bear edibles and vaping. Rather, the company aims to create mature delivery methods, like pressed CBD tablets. 

“We’re trying to forge and develop new paths as a dietary supplement manufacturer,” Derian said. “I think CBD tablets, much like a pressed aspirin, is the future.” 

According to Derian, since these kinds of products are more normalized in society, they also appeal to a broader range of consumers seeking the benefits of hemp.

Delta-8 THC 

All Zion Herbals products are health-oriented, including their Delta-8 THC. Derian was initially on the fence about adding Delta-8 THC to the product line, but after a loyal customer shared how the cannabinoid had helped him manage pain without anxiety, Derian decided it supported the Zion Herbals mission. 

“My mission is to provide natural alternatives to pharmaceuticals,” he said. 

Packaged in pharmaceutical-style bottles, the Delta-8 liquid gels are intended for medicinal uses rather than a way for people to get high. The effects are fast-acting and immensely stronger than CBD.  

Five Fan Favorites

Zion Herbals offers a plethora of products to choose from online. A few favorites are the best-selling CBD Soft Chews, Pressed CBD Tablets, Hemp Flower Jars, Delta-8 THC Liquid Gels, and their line of Element C CBD Sparkling Juices. Pushing the limits and staying ahead of the curve is what Zion Herbals is all about. Each of these products exemplifies their mission to improve and perfect delivery systems and flavors as they take CBD products to a new level. 

1) Citrus Mango CBD Soft Chews

Through a partnership with The Apple Rush Company, a leader in the natural beverage industry, Zion Herbals utilizes their access to large-scale food preparation equipment to make these unique CBD Soft Chews, featuring all organic ingredients. Reminiscent of a starburst, each delicious chew has a sweet Citrus Mango flavor and is formulated to offer a relaxing and well-balanced sense of calm. It’s like a little treat and completely masks the bitter taste of CBD. Individually wrapped, each CBD chew contains 30mg of hemp extract and can be taken as needed. This is a great consumption option if you need CBD but haven’t had much to eat, as the organic sugars act as a carrier and help your body absorb the product. 

2) Pressed CBD Tablets 
Zion Herbals Hemp Extract CBD Tablets

Available in jars of ten, these pressed CBD tablets contain 75mg of CBD each. If you are seeking relief for a specific health issue, whether it’s severe pain or epilepsy, these tablets are an easy way to incorporate high levels of CBD into your diet daily. The precise dosing means you can count on every tablet being exactly 75mg. While there are a few other pressed CBD tablets on the market, you’re unlikely to find any with this high of a dosage. 

3) Premium CBD, CBG and Delta-8 Infused Hemp Flower Jars
Zion Herbals Sour Space Candy Hemp Flower

Zion Herbals’ whole hemp flower is available in CBD, CBG and CBD/Delta-8 THC strains. All of these flower offerings give people a way to enjoy the benefits of CBD in a more social and spiritual way. 

Sour Space Candy, Cherry Cirtus, and T1 are CBD-only varietals. The Bubba Kush and Honolulu Haze strains combine both CBD and Delta-8 THC for an immediate calming effect. Whole hemp flower is also available in two CBG strains: White Lion and White Whale. A natural sedative, CBG is a perfect way to wind down before bedtime. White Whale is grown in Oregon and is very frosty with a lot of cannabinoids on the flower, helping clean out your lungs. White Lion is grown on Zion Herbals’ Virginia hemp farm and has an earthier flavor profile. 

This year, Zion Herbals is also growing Goliath, Abacus 2.0, and Peach Mint Kush on their Oregon hemp farm and will be adding these strains to their lineup in the fall. 

4) Delta 8-THC, 20-mg Liquid Gels
Zion Herbals Delta 8 Liquid Gels

The Delta-8 soft gel is an excellent way to ensure you are taking precisely 20mg at a time. To get standardized exact dosing requires precision—something Zion Herbals can claim, thanks to their experience manufacturing for brands on a large-scale. One capsule is a sufficient serving size and is very effective. You can expect to receive the maximum benefits that Delta 8-THC has to offer through an advanced delivery method that is easy to take with you on-the-go. And last but not least, MCT oil (commonly known as coconut oil) is used for the carrier, making these liquid gels a natural, healthy option.

5) CBD Sparkling Juices
Zion Herbals Element C CBD Sparkling Juice

Zion Herbals teamed up with the beverage company Apple Rush to create their Element C CBD Sparkling Juice line and reach a wider audience by tapping into their impressive distribution network. Available in Black Cherry, Blueberry, and Plain, these sparkling juices contain 25mg of water-soluble CBD. The plain flavor is like a sparkling water while the black cherry and blueberry flavors are similar to Fanta.

With no added sugars and all organic ingredients from real juices, these sparkling juices are a fun and delicious way to ingest CBD. Zion Herbals’ proprietary emulsification process makes for high bioavailability, meaning you will feel the effects faster and stronger too.

Quality Assurance

All of Zion Herbals’ products are third-party lab-tested (typically by Columbia Food Laboratories) in order to give consumers complete peace of mind. Current QR codes are listed on each and every product, taking you directly to the most recent lab results for total transparency. 

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