November 25, 2020
In this Issue
  • Commentary: Legalizing Pot
  • Latest Updates on COVID-19
  • Bulletin Board
  • What Can I Do?
  • Check your Calendar

Legalizing Pot
When settlers to the Virginia colony in the seventeenth century discovered that they would not be able to walk about and pick up gold as some had been led to believe, they had to look around to find a way to make the colony economically sustainable. Most efforts were unsuccessful until John Rolfe discovered that Virginia had a favorable climate to grow the noxious weed tobacco. What followed was centuries of millions of people becoming addicted to smoking or chewing tobacco with the associated cancer risks. Only in recent times has selling cigarettes to minors or smoking in public places been outlawed. Virginia has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country although it is taxed at a rate higher than other products.

Many farmers throughout the centuries of Virginia’s history converted their grain crops to liquor as distillers or moonshiners. With the resulting alcoholism, broken homes, and other evils associated with alcohol, Virginia became a “dry” state outlawing alcohol four years prior to the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 making prohibition a national policy. With the lawlessness that ensued and the failure to control alcohol, the Twenty-first Amendment was passed to repeal prohibition in 1933. Virginia went from prohibition to strict control through the establishment of the Alcohol Beverage Control board that now exceeds a billion dollars in annual revenue with half that amount going to support government programs.

During its struggles with public policies related to tobacco and alcohol, Virginia treated access to marijuana as an even greater threat. Jails have been filled and criminal records have been established even for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Smoking marijuana was viewed as a certain step to lifelong drug addiction. That tough law and order approach to marijuana shifted a few years ago when I and other legislators were able to get the medical use of marijuana approved for the relief of persons who suffered from seizures; that approach has shifted more dramatically since then.

The General Assembly passed a bill earlier this year that decriminalized possession of marijuana, creating a $25 civil penalty for a first offense. Last week Governor Northam announced that he supports the legalization of marijuana in the coming session of the General Assembly. Virginia would be the first state in the South to legalize marijuana.

According to a report issued last week by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) that I chair, over the past decade law enforcement in Virginia has made between 20,000 and 30,000 marijuana-related arrests. Ninety percent were for possession of a small amount of the substance. Though Black and White Virginians use marijuana at about the same rate, JLARC found Black Virginians are 3.5 times as likely to be arrested and convicted. JLARC also found that it would take two years and between $8 million and $20 million to set up a commercial marijuana market in Virginia and that it could ultimately generate $300 million in annual sales tax revenue.

Virginia has taken centuries to deal with issues of tobacco and alcohol. Progress has been made, and it appears that the state is on the verge of legalizing pot which I support.
Latest Updates on COVID-19

Fairfax County

11/24/2020 — FCPS Returns Group 4 Students to All Virtual Instruction. Read the announcement.

11/24/2020 — 6 Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccination Plans. Read the update.


11/24/2020 — The Virginia Employment Commission Announced the End of Extended Benefits. Read the details.

11/24/2020 — Virginia Department of Health Coronavirus Webpage Includes Map to Find COVID-19 Testing Sites. Explore the map.


11/24/2020 — CDC Outlines Benefits of Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine. Read the article.

11/24/2020 — FDA Authorizes Monoclonal Antibodies for Treatment of COVID-19. Read the explanation.
Bulletin Board
Opportunities to Give this Holiday Season
Vale United Methodist Church’s 13th Annual Christmas Tree Sale to Fight Hunger! Learn more. Vale Church also donates additional Christmas tree sale proceeds to local organizations that feed hungry people right here in Virginia.
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue and other sites will be collecting toys for children in need as part of the regional Quantico Toys for Tots Campaign. Collections are underway and will continue through December 13.
Giving Tuesday this year is Tuesday, December 1. Learn more here. To give to a local cause, be on the lookout for emails from your favorite organizations and lists in local media. Many nonprofits participate.
A SIMPLE GESTURE – RESTON is a bi-monthly (six times a year) food collection program that provides non-perishable food to area pantries to support our neighbors in Northern Virginia. Learn more.
Help Local Businesses Survive the Pandemic
Find small businesses in Reston you can support on this map.
News Items for Those in Special Need
  • You may be eligible to receive free job training in a high-demand field if you apply by Tuesday, December 8, 2020. Details are at Re-Employing Virginians Initiative
  • The Fairfax County Hypothermia Prevention Program shelters will open at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, and will remain available 24-hours a day, 7-days a week through the morning of April 1, 2021.
  • Coordinated Services Planning (CSP) connects Fairfax County residents to county- and community-based services and resources such as emergency food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, employment, financial assistance and other essential needs. Watch a video here.
  • Dialysis patients will now be eligible to enroll in Medicare Advantage (MA) health insurance plans. A new, free, online tool has been designed to help dialysis patients compare their Medicare options and make the best coverage decision to fit their needs.
Reston Parkway Lane Closed
The VDOT Bridge section has identified an issue with a girder connection on the Reston Parkway bridge over the Dulles Toll Road. For public safety the right northbound lane on the bridge is being closed to traffic, indefinitely for the moment until damages can be assessed and repaired. VDOT will provide more information once a repair plan has been identified.
What can I do? Civic Involvement
Help Keep Your Community Safe
While You Celebrate Thanksgiving
The Virginia Department of Health has issued holiday guidelines and recommendations. Social gatherings in Phase Three are limited to 25 individuals and should follow the relevant section in the Guidelines for All Business Sectors. In addition, Northern Virginia’s Health Directors have come together to share An Important Message.
Calendar of Events
Now through January 3rd, 2020 Meadowlark's Winter Walk of Lights, at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna. Learn more and purchase tickets at Winter Walk of Lights.

Friday, November 27, Canceled: Reston Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting. For the health and safety of our community, Reston Town Center will be canceling the annual Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting event.

Friday, November 27, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., I Am My Brother & Sister's Keeper Day, online event. Celebrate community and healing across Virginia: enjoy music, drumming, song, and prayers. Governor Northam, legislators, and community and faith leaders will share their vision for a united Commonwealth. Read more and stream at this page.

Monday, November 30, 6:00 p.m., Vienna Church Street Holiday Stroll goes virtual this year. Viewers may tune into festivities either via Facebook Live or YouTube Live @townofviennava. As per usual, even during unusual times, there will be a traditional tree lighting, local performers, and a special message from Santa and Mayor Linda Colbert.

Sunday, December 3, 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., Holiday Greetings at the Nature Center, at Walker Nature Center, 11450 Glade Drive, Reston. Register and purchase tickets by Friday, December 4 at 5:00 p.m. Park on Glade Drive. Bring an umbrella in the event of rain.

Tuesday, December 8, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu will be Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton's guest at the next "On Deck with Mercury" community conversation. She will address questions about the current state of the coronavirus pandemic in the region. A limited number of residents may attend this event in person at Town Hall; in-person attendance is limited to 20 individuals. If interested in attending, sign up here. This event also may be attended via Zoom. The conversation will be recorded for later broadcast on TVCN.

Wednesday- Friday, December 9-11, The Commonwealth Institute's (TCI) Virtual 2020 Policy Summit. TCI’s annual policy summit is a chance for advocates, partners, and people interested in Virginia policy to come together and discuss priorities, challenges, and opportunities going into the 2021 legislative session, which kicks off January 13. In place of the usual full-day, in-person summit, this year’s event will be FREE and take place across December 9-11 in the form of virtual meetings. Register for one session or all of them here.