Virginia Politics

Government & Policy

Virginia’s ‘Marijuana Martyr’ fought a 40-year sentence for selling pot. Now he can legally smoke a joint.


He was a Black hippie in a conservative corner of southwest Virginia.

In the early 1970s, Roger T. Davis reveled in his status as a counterculture provocateur in the small town of Wytheville. He bought, sold and smoked pot. He dated White women, marrying a White farmer’s daughter.

Then, in October 1973, the 28-year-old sold three ounces of marijuana to a police informant. Investigators found about six more ounces of weed at his house.

That sting operation would turn Davis into Virginia’s “Marijuana Martyr” — a title he still embraces nearly 50 years later.

Reporting from the Washington Post »

Statewide Races

Virginia Bar Association cancels debate after Youngkin chooses to skip it

The Virginia Bar Association has cancelled its planned gubernatorial debate after Republican Glenn Youngkin broke with recent tradition by skipping what is usually the first face-to-face matchup of the general election.

In a statement Monday, the Bar Association said the debate has been removed from the itinerary for its annual summer meeting later this month at the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs.

“While we had productive conversations with the campaigns, we were not able to get commitments for a debate that included all of the major candidates,” the Bar Association’s statement said. “The debate has always been one of the highlights of the summer meeting, and the VBA has been grateful to be part of the political conversation in Virginia for more than 30 years. We are disappointed that a statewide debate will not be a part of this year’s program.”

View coverage from Virginia Mercury »

General Assembly

State lawmakers begin work on addressing dangerous staffing shortage at state mental hospitals


Lawmakers in charge of ensuring Virginia is adequately treating people with mental health problems heard directly Thursday from the state official who says low staffing at state hospitals has brought unprecedented levels of danger.

Alison Land, state commissioner of behavioral health and developmental services, outlined the spending she said is needed — including $75 million for salaries and pay increases — to make the state’s mental health facilities safe. She spoke to a subcommittee of lawmakers created in 2014 to study and improve mental health services.

Land recently closed admissions temporarily at five of the state’s mental hospitals because staffing levels are so low that patients and staff aren’t safe.

View coverage from the Richmond Times-Dispatch »

Elections 2021

Va. House candidate blocked from ballot after election official’s mistake


As a self-described “progressive populist” who already ran for the General Assembly three times as a Green Party candidate or independent, Jeff Staples knows he probably wouldn’t win even if state officials let him on the ballot.

But he remains baffled as to why the State Board of Elections refused to do so despite proof the paperwork error preventing him from running against Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, wasn’t his fault.

“I’m not a big player,” said Staples, a 59-year-old Chesapeake resident who works in automotive repair. “If I belonged to a party then they would be all over it. But since I’m a reformist kind of guy they’re not biting.”

More from the Virginia Mercury »


Mark Warner, a ‘Business Guy’ Democrat, Lands Back in the Fray


WASHINGTON — In his days as Virginia’s governor, Mark Warner had a reputation for playing rough under the boards with young Republican lawmakers on the basketball court. But he would follow his flying elbows with a pat on the back, a wry smile and often an invitation to the governor’s mansion for Grey Goose vodka shots.

And to this day, Republicans marvel that the “business guy” Democrat in 2004 persuaded 17 Republicans in a G.O.P.-dominated legislature to remake the state’s finances with a $1.36 billion tax increase.

Seventeen years later, Mr. Warner is a senator and back in the fray, a central figure in negotiating both a bipartisan infrastructure deal and an ambitious budget blueprint packed with Democratic priorities — two measures whose success or failure will determine the fate of President Biden’s agenda.

Full story from the NY Times »


KEY MEASURES: Virginia Department of Health

Dashboard updated 7/15/2021. Case counts reflect what has been reported to VDH by healthcare providers and laboratories.

Visit the VDH Dashboard 

Unvaccinated citizens: majority of COVID deaths

“The newly released statistics prompted the health department to call vaccinations “the most important strategy to stop the COVID-19 pandemic…”

Coverage from The Free Lance-Star

Race data was missing for 1.3m vaccinated Virginians

Around 1.6 million people were missing the information on the state’s vaccine dashboard, but nearly 1.3 million people did in fact report their race when they received a vaccine....

Full story in The Virginian-Pilot

Business, Economy, & Labor News

Court rejects challenge to Virginia’s carbon rule

Richmond’s circuit court has a rejected a challenge filed by a group representing Virginia manufacturers who sought to thwart the state’s entry into a regional carbon-trading network.

Full story »

Virginians of color were more likely to lose job or money due to pandemic, study says

The Virginian-Pilot »

Northam rolls out plan to use $353 million in federal aid to help businesses hurt by pandemic


Washington Post »

Va. jobless claims continued decline last week

Virginia Business »

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2021 Virginia General Election