By Carol Vaughn —
Chincoteague town council members at the April 15 meeting discussed implications for the town of the legalization of marijuana possession in Virginia, which takes effect July 1.
Other parts of the legislation, including retail sales, do not take effect until 2024.
The legislation makes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana legal for people 21 and older starting July 1. Adults caught with more than an ounce but less than a pound face a $25 fine.
Vice Mayor Chris Bott said he received information from the Virginia Municipal League about recent General Assembly actions, including marijuana legalization.
“July 1, it’s on in the state of Virginia,” Bott said, adding, “It’s a different world in these localities where this is on. I’ve been in direct experience with this. It’s different. It’s weird.”
Bott said Virginia gave localities options to opt out of “the state-regulated mandates.”
“I think we need to kind of aggressively look at this,” he said, recommending the ordinance committee review the matter.
Localities may opt out of allowing retail sales, which, Bott said, “We need to do.”
Additionally, Bott said localities may prohibit possession or consumption of marijuana on school grounds and in public areas.
“I think we need to take a hard and aggressive look at this, due to the fact that we are a family-oriented destination as well as a community,” Bott said.
Council member Denise Bowden noted open containers of alcohol are not allowed on the streets or in the parks on Chincoteague.
“I’m definitely with you,” she said.
Council member Gene Wayne Taylor said, “Whatever the harshest restrictions we can put on it by law, that’s where it needs to be.”
“The reason why people come to Chincoteague as families is they are getting out of the atmosphere from where they’re coming, which has all of this,” said council member Jay Savage.
Under the state legislation, consuming marijuana in public or offering it to people in public, as a gift or otherwise, remains illegal. First offenses are punishable by a $25 fine, a second offense adds mandatory drug treatment, and a third offense would constitute a Class 4 misdemeanor. Additionally, possession on school grounds while school is open is a Class 2 misdemeanor under state law.
COVID-19 and Emergency Operations Plan Updates
Chincoteague Emergency Management Coordinator Bryan Rush, in an update on the COVID-19 state of emergency, said as of Thursday, April 15, Chincoteague had three additional cases of COVID-19 reported since his previous report to council Monday, April 12.
A total of 1,900 people on Chincoteague have been tested for COVID-19.
Accomack County had 15 additional cases, one hospitalization, and no additional deaths since Monday; Northampton had four new cases, no new hospitalizations, and no deaths reported for the same period.
Rush presented an update to the town’s emergency operations plan, after a committee and department heads met several times over the past few months to review the plan, which the state requires to be updated and re-adopted by the town council every four years.
Council likely will consider approving the plan at its June 7 meeting.
One major change is the addition of an appendix related specifically to pandemics.
The council voted to accept a deed of gift for a corner lot on Smith Street, where improvements related to the construction of Brianna’s Kindness Park on adjacent property are in the works.
A public hearing on the town’s fiscal year 2022 budget will be held May 3.