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SERWAN ZANGANA: Marijuana: A Silent Destroyer of Virginia Communities

The outcome of legalizing marijuana by Virginia lawmakers can be observed negatively in Roanoke City. Apparently, the legislature has defined this matter from their point of view only. By walking in the City, the pervasive smell of marijuana in most of the streets corners and parking lots cannot be ignored. It is the era of being high, and one has to wonder if this is what the legislature wants for the people – to shut their mouth and not complain about the major issues in Virginia.

Legalizing marijuana has affected the homeless and panhandlers, and stretches to everyone else in the community. Obviously, including alcohol, now the addiction of marijuana can be seen in some of homeless and panhandlers in the City. And their daily earnings will be spent on such a substance.

Sadly, the Virginia legislature politicized marijuana legalization, as they were unable to solve the disproportionality in marijuana charges between White and Black. Basically, what can be understood is that the members of Virginia legislature said they will let Virginians smoke marijuana and stay off of their backs.

As I was wandering and shopping around in Roanoke City the past weekend, I could feel the legislature’s negative result of their marijuana legislation. Indeed, at different times, I encountered 4 gentlemen in the parking lots who approached me and asked for money. They all reeked with the distinct smell of marijuana. Apparently, law can lay a path and direct people, but in fact, not all the laws are necessarily written morally. As we can see marijuana legalization is certainly not helping the homeless and panhandlers.

As with everything else, evidently, marijuana has been politicized. Most Virginian politicians are willing to use every tool as possible as to win people’s vote. And all Democrats and some Republicans are guilty of this action and behavior. Apparently, most politicians sway away from the righteous path after they get elected. To ask simple questions: Is it really helping the community to have easy access to marijuana? Or is it really helping minorities in eliminating the disproportionality of marijuana arrest and prosecution? What about its risk on the Virginians’ health?

Evidently, the Virginian legislature, specifically Democrats, is not willing to listen to these questions and concerns. And furthermore, they proposed to establish markets and stores in the Virginia community. Seemingly Gov. Youngkin is more concern about this matter, and indeed, he did not ignore the problem that marijuana causes for Virginians. Gov. Youngkin vetoed both Bills, HB 698 and SB 448 that aimed to establish marijuana markets in Virginia.  .

In fact, it is not clear how long it will take for Democrats and perhaps some Republicans  to push such Bills. But for now, Gov. Youngkin gets kudos for thinking realistically more than our representatives in Virginia’s House and Senate. “The proposed legalization of retail marijuana in the commonwealth endangers Virginians’ health and safety. States following this path have seen adverse effects on children’s and adolescent’s health and safety…,” Youngkin wrote in the statement.

On the other hand, this indeed does not please all Virginians. Realizing that health matters are not on marijuana smokers and the farmers’ agendas. Not to offend anyone by any means, but marijuana smokers and the farmers are only willing to define marijuana from one point of view which is the same view of the Virginia legislature, which is more funds for Virginia.

In reality, it is a deception to draw a colorful picture of marijuana legalization and marketing as a beneficial matter. It is indeed a silent destroyer to Virginia’s community.

– Serwan Zangana supported Operation Iraqi Freedom as a U.S Army translator before coming to the U.S from Kurdistan, Iraq in 1997 to seek political asylum. He was granted asylum status and years later proudly became a U.S citizen. He currently serves as a correction officer in Roanoke.


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