August 10, 2022

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Father who lost son to heroin addiction weighs in on marijuana legalization

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RICHMOND, VA. – Governor Ralph Northam’s announcement Wednesday that simple marijuana possession could be legal in the state by July sparked talks across the Commonwealth – many with opposing views on the decision.

A Virginia Commonwealth University professor who said he lost his son to addiction claimed he was not against legalizing marijuana while strict regulations are in place to protect youth.

“I speak for all parents, fathers and mothers like me who have made the journey. Life is never the same after that,” said Dr. Omar Abubaker.

After 10 months of recovery, Abubaker said in 2014 that his 21-year-old son Adam overdosed on heroin – an addiction Abubaker believed started with alcohol.

“He went from prescription drugs to heroin, probably less than six months, and from heroin to death, less than a year,” Abubaker said.

Now the VCU medical professor said he made it his business to study addiction and spread awareness. But he believed marijuana was less addicting than some legal drugs in the state.

“It has medicinal uses, medicinal benefits, and when it’s regulated. It’s fine,” Abubaker said.

John Schinholser, co-founder and president of the McShin Foundation, works with addict recovery. He saw Wednesday’s announcement to legalize marijuana as a step in the right direction that would reverse an unjust era in our history.

“They use these laws as clubs for people who are on parole or parole,” Schinholser said. “I’ve seen thousands of kids recovering well, doing great, and getting hurt from little, simple things like marijuana.”

Schinholser believed that the next legislative priority should be to abolish minimum sentences.

“These prosecutors and judges have the ability to impose sentences. They don’t have to keep their hands tied to these minimum sentence guidelines. And a lot of these marijuana laws have minimum sentences tied to people who are injured on parole. People don’t realize it “said Schinholser. “You should get rid of these guidelines. That harms the color communities as much as any other law out there.”

Meanwhile, Luke Niforatos, executive vice president of the Virginia-based nonprofit Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), had a different view of the announcement.

“This is a very misguided move by Governor Northam,” said Niforatos.

He believed that marijuana should remain decriminalized, but warned that swiftly legalizing the drug for commercial use could lead to unintended consequences.

“You see states like mine, Colorado, we’ve had an industry for over seven years and we’re seeing a huge surge in youth use. Children under the age of 15 increase their marijuana use by more than 12% over the last two years,” said Niforatos. “We have seen a huge increase in hospital stays, accidental marijuana exposures, and more than doubling in marijuana-related road deaths for marijuana-disabled drivers.”

In addition, Niforatos warned that by legalizing the drug, the state could open the door to a larger industry benefiting from people’s addiction.

“Virginia takes time to prepare for this, and the idea of ​​speeding this up only benefits those trying to make a profit. It does not benefit families, children, and people who are more vulnerable,” said Niforatos. This industry follows a very similar playbook to what we’ve seen in major tobacco, liquor, and payday loan businesses. We all know where these businesses are going. And they also target color communities and other vulnerable populations. The industry, the marijuana industry, is no different. “

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