Criminal justice and drug reform

Legalization of marijuana.  Ben supports full legalization of marijuana. It would increase freedom, promote a thriving industry, and provide a safe alternative to heroin. My opponent Nick Freitas only supports medical marijuana, which means he knows it’s safe but still thinks we need his permission and his regulations.

Against Mandatory Minimums. Our new Attorney General under President Trump, Jeff Sessions, has ordered Federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe possible punishments for nonviolent drug offenders. Mandatory minimums are unjust, period.

Opioid epidemic. 52,404 Americans died from drug overdose in 2015, 50% more than from traffic accidents and nearly 400% more than from gun homicide. Heroin alone killed more than gun homicide. Orange County Sheriff Mark Amos says that “the recent spike in heroin usage is unlike anything he has seen.” In November, Culpeper police began to carry auto-injectors of the opiate antidote Naloxone because of weekly heroin overdoses here. These injectors require grants, and I will work to secure money so that our heroic officers throughout the 30th district can continue to buy injectors and save lives. But addiction is an ongoing disease and requires more than emergency life-saving treatment and stopgap measures. We must fight this fight together as a community: educate each other on drug safety, alternate coping mechanisms and Good Samaritan laws; curb the out-of-control crony capitalism of the pharmaceutical industry; and most importantly guarantee universal healthcare for everyone, including mental healthcare and addiction treatment.

Prison reform and against Private Prisons. Ben believes that jail sentences should be reserved for serious and violent offenders only. Virginia spends over a billion dollars annually on its state prisons through the Department of Correction. $42.6 million is spent on prison food alone. Medical services for the incarcerated costs $157 million. The private prison industry should be outlawed.

Felony reform. Ben supports Governor McAuliffe’s efforts to raise the felony larceny minimum (currently the lowest in the country at $200) and to prohibit suspension of driver’s licenses because of inability to pay court fees. Ben would go further and end license suspension for any non-driving offense. We must curb our impulse to punish. We also need to end the school-to-prison pipeline and raise the cap on court-appointed attorneys. Ben fully supports Tom Perriello’s outstanding criminal justice reform plan.