The voice Finale.jpg

OPINION

The Current State of Virginia 

By Chioma Adaku    

 

chioma-adaku@yahoo.com   May 5, 2021 5:00 am

 

HAMPTON, VA — Soon, Virginia will change the dynamics of politics with two Black female legislators as candidates, the current Lt. Governor, and former Governor of Virginia running in the Gubernatorial race in the Democrat primary. There have been laws to dismantle racism in Virginia: a Public Health Crisis declared and the no knock search. Moving forward, Virginia holds the banner to be the first state in the South to legalize marijuana.

 

Democrats began casting ballots in Virginia’s June primary election on April 23. Voters can go to their general registrar’s office or satellite voting location to cast their ballot. In-person voting ends on June 5, ahead of election day on June 8. You’ll have to show an acceptable form of ID. Absentee ballots will also be sent out to all voters who’ve requested a ballot by mail. You can request one online or by contacting your local registrar. The last day to request an absentee ballot is Friday, May 28 at 5 p.m.. They must be postmarked by Election Day, June 8, and received by the local voter registration office by noon on Friday, June 11. Virginia now has no excuse absentee voting, meaning everyone can request an absentee ballot. If you have any questions about the primary election you can call the Virginia Department of Elections at (800)-552-9745, email the department at info@elections.virginia.gov, or visit their website at elections.virginia.gov. The general election is on November 2. There are also a slew of candidates running for Lt. Governor and Attorney General.

 

As we move forward politically and in a climate where cultural awareness is at an all time high, the current Governor Northam has declared racism as a Public Health Crisis in Virginia. Racism is a declared public health issue in 145 cities and counties across 27 states. Now what happens?

The resolution addresses five specific issues:

  • Expand VDH's Office of Health Equity to be the primary watchdog for ensuring policies addressing racism are implemented;

  • Make the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law permanent;

  • Establish training for all state elected officials, their staff members and state employees on recognizing racism; 

  • Create a list of definitions and terms on racism and health equity; and 

  • Promote community engagement across the state on recognizing racism.

 

“We talked about that very issue that racism is a health crisis issue. We’re looking at a proclamation. That starts with leadership and a message that comes from the Governor and other individuals. It’s something that I’m discussing with that advisory board. I’ll work with Del. Aird, and I think you’ll see more in that regard,” commented Gov. Northam.

 

In the wake of the George Floyd incident, last year, Virginia became the third state to enact a law banning no-knock search warrants from being carried out, anecdotally referred to as "Breonna's Law" in memory of the Kentucky woman killed when Louisville police burst into an apartment and exchanged gunfire with the woman's boyfriend. Most recently, the General Assembly approved legislation that will make marijuana legal on July 1. The votes make Virginia the 16th state to legalize the drug and the first in the South to take the step, though retail sales won’t begin until Jan. 1, 2024.
 

“The time has come for our state to legalize marijuana,” said House Majority Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, who sponsored the bill, arguing the revised legislation ensures “that while we’re doing the complicated work of standing up a commercial market, we aren’t delaying immediate reforms that will make our commonwealth more equitable for all Virginians.”

 

The final legislation makes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana legal for people 21 and older beginning July 1. Adults caught with more than an ounce but less than a pound will face a $25 fine. And adults caught with more than a pound can be charged with a felony punishable by between one and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. "One of the reasons I support making it come into effect soon is if we don’t, and we have to wait another three years, I’ll be in my 80s before I can do legally what I was doing illegally in my 20s,” said Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax.

 

The General Assembly passed the marijuana legislation, Attorney General Mark Herring complimented the measures in a news release.

 

Herring said: “Decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana last year was such an important first step, but, unfortunately, while the penalty was lessened, the disparate impact on Black and brown Virginians remained,” said Attorney General Herring. “In order for us to truly address the disproportionate impact Virginia’s marijuana policies have on Black Virginians and communities of color, we must have full legal, regulated adult use in the Commonwealth. Accelerating the effective date of legal possession of small amounts of marijuana means that we will not force Black Virginians and communities of color to suffer under this disparate impact any longer. I am incredibly proud to have played a role in helping Virginia get on a path towards legalization and I want to thank all the partners and advocates who have helped us in this important endeavor.”

Chioma Adaku.jpg

Chioma Adaku is a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, and Activist who relocated to the Hampton Roads area as a Navy wife. She is the Owner/CEO of Here for You Counseling Services and facilitates training and workshops to those working in Behavioral Health. She integrates Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) with a mental health curriculum to offer hands-on activities to students through summer camps, afterschool programs, clubs, workshops, and classes. Since the pandemic, she formed a Minority Business Barter Exchange and most recently VOCAL, a political action committee and a advocacy organization.
 
Chioma is an MBA graduate. Her hobbies include conducting research and documenting the Contraband Slave story and historical Black cemeteries. She has dedicated her life to empowering people, specifically women and girls as an advocate for victims and survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. She hosted a Black Women Exposition that partnered with various Ambassadors from Africa; she host an annual AFRICON festival Commemorating African ancestors, COSICON, a costume runway, and is the marketing advocate of Traffic Stops, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking. 

She has written three books, co-authored two, and host “All About Me,” vision book parties. Chioma lives in Hampton, VA with her husband and two Cane Corsos, son and daughter are in other cities in Virginia. Her time is split between Hampton Roads and the Richmond area.