By Andrew Ringle
Karen Giles was proud of her 30 years as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician, her daughter said, until she was killed last February when a dump truck driver looked down at his phone to text a friend about a Valentine’s Day gift.
Giles’ daughter, Meredith Spies, said she now forgives that driver. But in a press conference on Tuesday, she also said the current sentencing guidelines are not harsh enough.
“We need to put our phones down,” Spies said. “And we need a punishment in place that will take over the need to eat, the need to put on your Chapstick, the need to answer that notification.”
Spies spoke in support of House Bill 874, currently being considered in the Virginia General Assembly. The bill would prohibit holding a handheld personal communications device while driving a motor vehicle.
Current law prohibits reading or typing messages on a personal communications device while driving. However, holding such a device is legal, except while driving in a work zone.
The bill’s sponsor, Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond, called the resolve of Spies and others who are pushing for legislation to prevent distracted driving “truly inspiring.”
“Too many people are being affected, being killed, being harmed,” Bourne said. “Families are being tormented by distracted driving and those accidents that result from that.”
Last fall, Richmond City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to ban using mobile devices while driving. A bill hoping to curb distracted driving in the 2019 General Assembly session passed the Senate but failed in the House. If HB 874 can make it out of the House and Senate this session, then a signature from Gov. Ralph Northam would make the same policy statewide law.
“We want to make sure that everyone is safe and that distracted driving goes down rather than up,” Bourne said.
Richmond Police Chief Will Smith said during the press conference that his department supports HB 874 and that anyone with children shouldn’t be surprised by the proposal.
“One of the very first things that we all talk about with our kids is, ‘make sure that you leave your phone out of your hand and don’t text, don’t call until you get to your destination,’” Smith said. “Yet we, as an adult society, tend not to obey our own advice.”
Smith said there were over 1,000 accidents involving distracted driving in the city last year, up from 950 in 2018. He said the ordinance passed by City Council last year mimics HB 874.
“We see this as a very positive opportunity to improve the safety of our traveling public, those who are pedestrians on our sidewalks and our cyclists in the streets,” Smith said.
Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said during the press conference that using phones while driving has become an epidemic. It’s currently legal to drive and use a phone to play “Angry Birds, or while browsing the internet,” he noted.
Surovell believes HB 874, now at the hands of the House motor vehicles subcommittee, has a strong chance of becoming law. He thanked Bourne for his support of similar legislation over the past four years.
“While I certainly can’t tell the future,” Bourne said, “I’m very, very confident that at some point in 2020, we’ll all be together again, watching the governor sign this bill into law.”
Legislature advances bill allowing nursing homes to administer medical cannabis
Virginia lawmakers continue to fine tune legislation that aligns with the state’s growing medical cannabis program by advancing two Senate bills that would facilitate the work of caregivers and lab employees.
By Chip Lauterbach
Virginia lawmakers continue to fine tune legislation that aligns with the state’s growing medical cannabis program by advancing two Senate bills facilitating the work of caregivers and lab employees.
SB 185 sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, would allow employees at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospices to administer CBD and THC-A oil to residents who have a valid written certification to use the medication. SB 885 from Sen. David W. Marsden, D-Fairfax, would remove criminal liabilities for analytical lab workers who transport and possess both substances during the course of their work.
Marsden also introduced legislation to protect individuals from possession charges for having marijuana in the form of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil, if they have valid written certification from a practitioner.
CBD products are used to treat epilepsy and to help with pain management for a variety of ailments. The product can be extracted from hemp, a plant in the cannabis family that is typically low in THC. The non psychoactive version of THC is THC-A; it does not produce a high. THC-A has been used to treat seizures, arthritis and chronic pain. Fibers of the hemp plant are also used in making rope, clothing, paper and other products. Hemp recently became legal at the federal level, and its cultivation is still regulated.
There is a distinction between hemp-derived CBD oil and marijuana-derived CBD oil, namely the level of THC present.
Dunnavant told a Senate panel that the bill is needed so that staff at assisted living facilities can be included as those authorized to store and administer both CBD and THC-A to residents and patients. Registered nurses and licensed practice nurses can legally administer the oils. Last year lawmakers passed legislation protecting school nurses from prosecution for possessing or distributing such oils, in accordance with school board policy.
Several nursing homes and assisted living facilities when contacted said that currently the use of CBD or THC-A are not allowed at their locations and that there are no immediate plans to incorporate such use into the care of their residents or patients.
Marsden sees his bill as an opportunity for further research and development of medical marijuana in Virginia. The state pharmaceutical processors permitted to manufacture and dispense marijuana-derived medications can distribute products with doses that do not exceed 10 milligrams of THC.
“If a laboratory is going to handle a drug that is marijuana, they need immunity from prosecution.” Marsden said. “Even if we go into decriminalization, that still has some civil penalties for it.”
Richmonder Brion Scott Turner is glad that steps are being made towards CBD becoming more available. Turner uses CBD to help with his own medical condition.
“I use a CBD infused lotion for my psoriasis,” Turner said. “It gives me relief from the itching and the psoriatic arthritis that comes with it.
Turner has said that most of his friends and family use CBD to help with a variety of ailments from minor headaches to anxiety attacks.
“My mother uses CBD for anything from lower back pain, helping with an upset stomach or even migraines,” Turner said.
Other cannabis related bills moving through the General Assembly include HB 972, which would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana down to a civil penalty of no more than $25. The Senate version of the bill carries a civil penalty of no more than $50.
HJ 130, currently in the Senate Committee of Rules, would direct the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to study options for the regulation of recreational adult use and medical use of cannabis. SJ 67, which has passed the House and Senate, directs JLARC to study options and make recommendations for how Virginia should go about the growth, sale and possession of marijuana. JLARC’s recommendations are due by July 1, 2022.
Both Dunnavant and Marsden’s bills reported out of committee and are headed to the House floor.
INTERACTIVE: Groups split over proposed overdose immunity bill
Groups, including former drug users, are split over a Senate bill that would give immunity to both someone reporting or experiencing an overdose. In a recent unanimous vote, the Senate passed Senate Bill 667, introduced by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax. The bill expands on the current protection offered only to the person reporting the overdose, who can be charged but has an affirmative defense which leads to dropped or reduced charges when proven they reported an overdose.
By Joseph Whitney Smith
Groups, including former drug users, are split over a Senate bill that would give immunity to both someone reporting or experiencing an overdose.
In a recent unanimous vote, the Senate passed Senate Bill 667, introduced by Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax. The bill expands on the current protection offered only to the person reporting the overdose, who can be charged with a crime but has an affirmative defense, which leads to dropped or reduced charges when proven they reported an overdose.
This new bill would offer immunity to both the person reporting the overdose and experiencing the overdose, meaning no charges would be filed. The bill protects individuals from arrest or prosecution for the unlawful purchase, possession or consumption of alcohol, controlled substances, marijuana or having drug paraphernalia.
The legislation also states that no officers acting in good faith will be found liable for false arrest if it is later determined the individual arrested was immune from prosecution because they overdosed or reported an overdose.
“In Virginia, friends often do not call for help for fear of being arrested,” Boysko said at the committee hearing for the bill.
Boysko told Senate members that every second matters in an overdose and that data show bystanders are three times more likely to call 911 when there is a safe reporting law such as her proposed bill. She also said that the state needs to stop criminalizing individuals that are attempting to seek urgent help for themselves or others.
“Virginia’s death toll from opioid overdoses continues to rise despite state and local government spending millions of dollars to make naloxone available,” Boysko said. “More than 1,500 died just in 2019 in Virginia from drug overdoses.”
According to the Virginia Department of Health, overdose is the leading cause of unnatural death in the state since 2013, followed by motor vehicle related and gun deaths.
“With the new law we’re looking at a healthcare solution for a healthcare crisis,” said Nathan Mitchell, who said he was previously addicted to drugs. Mitchell now serves as the community outreach and advocacy coordinator at the McShin Foundation. Mitchell said the proposed bill does not provide protection for crimes such as distribution or a firearm at the scene of the overdose, only drug and paraphernalia possession.
According to Mitchell, drug incarceration is inconsistent in the commonwealth. He said after his first drug-related arrest he wasn’t introduced to a recovery program. But, after his second arrest, he received treatment through the help of the McShin Foundation. He said that inconsistency is an example that not all individuals who overdose will have access to the same treatment.
Drug courts are specialized courts where individuals plead guilty and agree to complete the drug court program. Not every locality in the commonwealth has a drug court, though state law authorizes any locality to establish one with the support of existing and available local, state and federal resources.
Mitchell said that individuals may not report an overdose to help protect the individual overdosing from being charged with a crime. He said that’s why a bill granting immunity to both parties is important.
John Shinholser, president and co-founder of the McShin Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on recovery education and recovery, testified in favor of Boysko’s bill.
“This is evidence-based, data-driven proof that this bill will reduce deaths in Virginia during this crisis,” Shinholser said.
Goochland County resident Micheal McDermott spoke in opposition of Boysko’s bill during the Senate committee meeting. McDermott said he’s been in recovery from substance abuse disorder for over 28 years. The bill has good intentions but immunity should only be given to the person reporting, not overdosing, McDermott said.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said.
There’s no guarantee that an overdose victim treated by paramedics will find recovery, McDermott said. If the person overdosing is on probation, they should receive a probation violation, and perhaps get the needed court-mandated treatment.
Westmoreland County Commonwealth’s Attorney Julia Sichol spoke last month at a House subcommittee in opposition to similar legislation that failed to advance, on behalf of the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys. Sichol said she thinks a bill offering immunity “can also cause harm to lives” because it keeps the person overdosing from being charged with a crime and could possibly prevent them from receiving court-mandated treatment.
“Drug treatment is extremely expensive and sometimes the only way to get the treatment for the individuals is through the court system,” Sichol said. “If you take away the ability for individuals to be charged who have overdosed they are not eligible to participate in drug treatment program, they are not eligible to go through the court system under mandated treatment.”
On Friday, SB 667 was assigned to a House subcommittee.
Time Travelers Weekend will provide free admission to 24 area historic sites March 14-15
Explore some of the area’s most historic and interesting landmarks all weekend – free of charge.
Locals and tourists alike are invited to enjoy unique history, fascinating stories and a journey into the past during the biannual Time Travelers weekend, March 14-15.
Explore new participating sites and old favorites this year as 24 historic homes, churches, museums and more open their doors to visitors across the Richmond Region. Each site will offer free admission to those visitors presenting a Time Travelers Passport available via download on participating locations’ websites. Additionally, several participating sites have developed new programming in observance of Women’s History Month.Download the passport, explore local history and get to know the Richmond Region, free of charge.
Participating locations include (new participating sites are highlighted):
Agecroft Hall & Gardens
Agecroft Hall was built in England in the 1500s, then rebuilt in Richmond in the 1920s. Today it is a museum furnished with art and artifacts from 17th century England. Take a 30-minute guided tour with a St. Patrick’s Day theme, stroll the gardens overlooking the James River, explore the Sunroom Exhibit, get hands-on in the Tudor Kitchen and shop in the museum store. Agecroft Hall & Gardens is open Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sun. 12:30-5 p.m. For more information, visit www.agecrofthall.org. To reserve a specific tour time, call 804-353-4241.
The American Civil War Museum’s White House of the Confederacy
Explore the Civil War and its legacies in microcosm at the White House of the Confederacy, owned and operated by the American Civil War Museum (open daily from 10am to 4pm). It was home to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, place of labor of enslaved and free African Americans, and epicenter for society and politics in wartime Richmond. After the war, the house was also part of the U.S. Reconstruction headquarters, one of the first public schools in Virginia, and opened as a museum in 1896. More information: www.acwm.org.
The Branch Museum of Architecture and Design
The John Kerr Branch House is a Tudor Revival Style structure designed by renowned architect John Russell Pope. Visitors can enjoy guided tours every hour, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and free admission all weekend. For questions, call 804-655-6055 or visit www.branchmuseum.org.
The Chesterfield County Museum
The Chesterfield Museum is a reproduction of the colonial courthouse of 1749. A special changing exhibit highlights Chesterfield during WWI. The museum will be open 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday and 12 – 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call the County Museum and Historic Jail at (804) 768-7311 or visit www.chesterfieldhistory.com.
The Chesterfield County Historic Jail
Upstairs, visitors may view cells as they were when they housed their last prisoners in 1962. The Old Jail, built in 1892, includes a changing exhibit “Chesterfield Remembers WWI” on display. The jail will be open 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday and 12 – 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call the County Museum and Historic Jail at (804) 768-7311 or visit www.chesterfieldhistory.com.
Chimborazo Medical Museum (Richmond National Battlefield Park)
Chimborazo became one of the Civil War’s largest military hospitals. A museum on the same grounds as the old hospital contains original medical instruments and personal artifacts. Other displays include a scale model of the hospital and a short film on medical practices and the caregivers that comforted the sick and wounded. The site is located at 3215 East Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia and is open for free, Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information, call (804) 226-1981 or visit www.nps.gov/rich.
The Clarke-Palmore House Museum is located atop historic Marion Hill in Henrico County. The museum interprets the lives of the Palmore family who lived on this small farm in 1930. Like other families living through the Great Depression, the Palmore family struggled to make a living during tough economic times. The museum will be open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and is located at 904 McCoul Street. For more information call (804) 652-3406 or visit www.henrico.us/rec.
Courtney Road Service Station
The 1920s were the boom years for the construction of gas stations in the United States due to an increase of cars, improved roads and low gas prices. Many were built in the “House with Canopy” design like the Courtney Road Service Station, a style that was a 1916 Standard Oil Company prototype. In 1938, the Barlow family owned the station. The station was operated by Mr. Millard G. Wiltshire and sold Sinclair Gasoline and Oil Products. The station is located at 3401 Mountain Road and will be open Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information call (804) 652-1455 or visit www.henrico.us/rec.
Dabbs House Museum
The Dabbs House, built in rural eastern Henrico in 1820, gained attention as Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s field headquarters during the summer of 1862. Learn about the history of the house from its use as a residence for the Dabbs family to its tenure as Henrico’s police headquarters and then as a police station. Visitors can tour the 1862 field headquarters and browse the exhibit galleries. Dabbs House Museum will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and is located at 3812 Nine Mile Road. For more information call (804) 652-3406 or visit www.henrico.us/rec.
Deep Run Schoolhouse
This two-room schoolhouse opened in 1902. The school was in use until 1911, offering seven grades of instruction. By folding the movable center wall the space converted into one large room for weekly square dances for the community. Henrico County moved the school to its current location, 3401 Pump Road, from Three Chopt Road in 1996. The museum will be open noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call (804) 652-1455 or visit www.henrico.us/rec.
Henricus Historical Park
Voyage back in time 400 years to the Citie of Henricus, the second successful English settlement in the New World! In 1611, 300 musketeers led by Sir Thomas Dale arrived in the struggling Virginia colony to establish a new capital far from the unhealthy swamps of Jamestown. Henricus Historical Park re-creates this historical journey and highlights the major benchmarks that took place here over 400 years ago. Historical interpretation pays tribute to the colonists who desperately struggled to establish a foothold in England’s western frontier and the Virginia Indians who encountered them. www.henricus.org.
Historic St. John’s Church
A year before drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson attended the Second Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church. Alongside George Washington, Richard Henry Lee and other figures of the American Revolution, Jefferson heard Patrick Henry deliver his now-famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. This speech ignited the American Revolution, making St. John’s a landmark for the universal struggle for human rights. It is now a National Historic Landmark. The Church, Visitor Center and Gift Shop will be open Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and on Sunday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. To learn more, call 804-648-5015 or visitwww.historicstjohnschurch.org.
The John Marshall House
John Marshall is best known as the “Great Chief Justice” for his role in creating the modern Supreme Court. His influential decisions, such as Marbury v. Madison, helped shape the principle of judicial review. With the largest collection of original Marshall family pieces, his home offers an in-depth look at the formation of American government through the lens of the federal judiciary. The John Marshall House will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and is located at 818 East Marshall Street. Throughout the day, attendees can enjoy Quoits, cornhole yard games and open house tours. For more information, call (804) 648-7998 or visit www.johnmarshallhouse.org.
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
Businesswoman. Leader. Civil rights activist. Maggie L. Walker was all of these things, and more. A tour of her home highlights her achievements and reminds us of the obstacles she overcame to emerge as an inspirational figure in the early twentieth century. The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site is located at 600 N. 2nd Street, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with tours of her home available daily, and is free of charge. Reservations are suggested for groups of six or more. For more information and for tour times, call (804) 771-2017 ext. 0 or visit www.nps.gov/mawa.
Magnolia Grange, built in 1822 and located in Chesterfield County, is a Federal-style plantation house and is noted for its distinctive architecture. Magnolia Grange will be open 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Saturday and 12 – 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call Magnolia Grange at (804) 748-1498.
Experience the upstairs, downstairs world of Maymont, a restored 1893 Gilded Age mansion given to the City of Richmond by James and Sallie Dooley. Guided tours reveal the amazing furnishings in the Dooleys’ home – including Tiffany stained glass and a swan bed – while intertwining the story of remarkable women like Sallie Dooley, renown hostess and horticulturist, and Frances Walker, the African American mother of eight who worked as the Dooleys’ head cook. Located at 1700 Hampton Street, Maymont Mansion will be open Sat.-Sun. 12-5 pm; last tour begins at 4:30. For more information, call 804-358-7166 ext. 310 or visitwww.maymont.org. Saturday-Sunday, March 14-15, 12-5pm
Meadow Farm Museum at Crump Park
Meadow Farm is an 1860 living historical farm focusing on rural Virginia life just before the upheaval of the Civil War. Interpreters provide insights into the lives of Dr. John Mosby Sheppard, his family and those who were enslaved at the farm. Meadow Farm Museum will be open 12 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and is located at 3400 Mountain Road. For more information call (804) 652-1455 or visit www.henrico.us/rec.
Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown
Scotchtown turns 300 this year! It is the only original standing home of Patrick Henry, patriot and orator of the American Revolution, open to the public. He conceived his most influential revolutionary ideas here, including his famous “Liberty or Death” speech. Built around 1720 by Charles Chiswell, Scotchtown is architecturally unique, featuring eight large rooms and a central passage below a large, undivided attic. The house is surrounded by reproduction outbuildings and gardens for you to explore.Scotchtown will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and is located at 16120 Chiswell Lane, Beaverdam, VA. For more information, call (804) 227-3500 or visit www.patrickhenryscotchtown.org
The Poe Museum
The Poe Museum is illuminating Poe for everyone, evermore. Many cities claim Edgar Allan Poe, but Poe claimed Richmond as his home. We house and display the largest museum collection of Poe memorabilia in the world. Visit www.poemuseum.org for more information.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
In 1843, a committee from Monumental Church on Broad St. was commissioned to establish a new church as the city moved westward. When it opened in 1845, St. Paul’s Episcopal became the largest Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia and is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture. Later renovations added stained glass windows including ten by Louis Comfort Tiffany. A portion of the church was used as a hospital during the Civil War and by the USO during World War II. St. Paul’s is on the Virginia Landmarks Register, the National Register of Historic Places and continues to be an active parish. The church is located at 815 East Grace Street and will be open Sunday, March 15, from 12:00 to 4:30 p.m. Visit www.stpaul’srva.org for more information.
Virginia Randolph House
The Virginia Randolph Museum honors Randolph’s work as a pioneer educator for 50 years, a humanitarian and a creative leader in the field of education. The structure, built in 1937, was declared a National Historic landmark in 1976. The museum will be open Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. and is located at 2200 Mountain Road, Glen Allen. For more information call (804) 652-1475 or visit www.henrico.us/rec.
The Valentine and Wickham House
A National Historic Landmark built in 1812, the Wickham House challenges guests to explore aspects of life in the early 19th century. The Wickham House was purchased by Mann Valentine Jr. and in 1898 became the first home of the Valentine Museum. This historic home allows the Valentine to tell the complicated story of the Wickham family, the home’s enslaved occupants, sharing spaces, the realities of urban slavery and more. The Valentine and the 1812 Wickham House will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and is located at 1015 East Clay Street. The Valentine’s current exhibitions, Valentine Garden, Edward V. Valentine Sculpture Studio and the Valentine Store will also be open. For more information, call (804) 649-0711 or visit www.thevalentine.org.
The Valentine First Freedom Center
The Valentine First Freedom Center delves into America’s experience of religious liberty from its European antecedents through today. It is located on the site where Thomas Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom was enacted into law in 1786. Outside, a 27-foot spire, a wall etched with the enacting paragraph of the Statute, and a banner of a seminal Jefferson quote imprint the importance of the “first freedom” on all who come upon that busy corner. The Valentine First Freedom Center is located on the corner of South 14th & Cary streets and will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Parking is available on the street or in public pay lots. For more information, call (804) 649-0711 or visit www.thevalentine.org/firstfreedomcenter.
The Wilton House Museum
The c.1753 Wilton house was home to members of the Randolph family and four generations of enslaved African American families for more than 100 years and the centerpiece of a 2,000 acre tobacco plantation. Today, Wilton continues to serve as an example of Georgian architecture, headquarters to the Virginia Dames, and host to public programs and educational exhibits. To find out more about Wilton House Museum’s events and opportunities, visit http://www.wiltonhousemuseum.org