Legalizing pot is center stage at this festival in Norfolk

UPDATE: Due to Hurricane Florence, most of the Legalize Virginia Festival was postponed and will now begin Tuesday, Sept. 18 and run through Friday Sept. 21. Tuesday will feature the Equity and Expungement: Talking Marijuana and Race in Virginia discussion panel from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, the festival will culminate with O’Connor’s beer release, glass blowing demonstrations, and a fundraiser for Virginia NORML. A complete list of events is available on the Legalize Virginia Facebook event.

Original story:

NORFOLK — O’Connor Brewing Company and Virginia NORML are hosting the first-ever “Legalize Virginia Festival” here starting Monday.

The festival will run through Friday and will feature panel discussions on medical cannabis, marijuana laws and their disproportionate effects on minorities, and workshops on how to become active in lobbying efforts.

The festival will take place at O’Connor, which will also release a new beer called “YES, NORFOLK CAN(yon).” The beer is a quadruple dry-hopped American pale ale brewed with hemp seed, according to the brewer’s website.

Jesse Scaccia, director of strategic communications and development for Virginia NORML, is one of the organizers of the festival. He views marijuana law reform as a public health issue — and a moral one.

“There are so many veterans in Virginia suffering from PTSD who would benefit from this medicine,” Scaccia said. “Not to mention those battling cancer, anxiety, epilepsy and so many other medical issues who see marked quality of life improvements with access to safe, affordable, quality medical cannabis.”

Veterans who have used marijuana to treat their PTSD will be part of the conversation during the festival.

Lisa Bohn, an Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient, has smoked pot for years to self-medicate her PTSD. She will serve on a panel Monday at O’Connor’s titled “Marijuana Saved My Life: Cannabis as Medicine in Virginia.”

Southside Daily featured Bohn in a June 21 story about treating her PTSD with cannabis.

Bohn will be joined by others who have used cannabis to successfully treat medical issues. Jenn Michelle Pedini, Virginia NORML’s executive director, will also be on the panel.

Tuesday will feature another discussion panel titled “Equity and Expungement: Talking Marijuana and Race in Virginia,” according to the festival’s Facebook page. The discussion will explore the disparity in arrest rates among whites and minorities, expungement of marijuana offenses, and how Virginia’s new cannabis oil industry can best benefit the state.

Related story: City officials to display support for medical cannabis oil industry Tuesday

Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation in March that allows for doctors to recommend medical cannabis oil to patients.

The state’s board of pharmacy received 51 applications in June from private companies looking to produce cannabis oil in Virginia. The board will provide up to five licenses for the production of the oil, and will announce which companies were chosen to be providers by Sept. 25.

Scaccia said the objective of the Legalize Marijuana Festival is to raise awareness of marijuana law reform in Virginia and transform how people view those who partake.

“We have to have a paradigm shift where we stop seeing cannabis consumers as criminals and start seeing them as patients,” Scaccia said.

For information and a full schedule of the festival, visit its Facebook event page.

Follow Joshua on Twitter @WeinsteinReport or email him at Joshua@localvoicemedia.com

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