Alexandria, VA

As Virginia starts making progress towards the decriminalization of marijuana, one local business is working to make it easier to connect people to medical marijuana licenses.

Veriheal, based in Old Town, educates clients about medical cannabis and connects them to doctors who can get them approved for a medical marijuana license. The company works in 23 states with its structure changing based on state laws. Anthony Dutcher, marketing director for Veriheal, said they’re working to get started in Virginia.

For $200, Veriheal will book an appointment with a licensed marijuana doctor. The cost includes the consultation fee, physician copay, medical evaluation and approval recommendation. If approved, the client will receive a medical marijuana card that can get them access to dispensaries. The company’s website says they offer a full refund if the client is not approved for medical marijuana treatment.

The company also charges an annual $200 fee for wellness appointments and follow up medical appointments necessary in places where medical marijuana cards must be renewed annually.

In Virginia, Dutcher said that the process is a little more tricky. While some medical marijuana use is approved with heavy limitations, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor charge, and even those approved could still be arrested. The law currently only allows those with epilepsy to use medical marijuana.

“There’s a lot we can’t do in Virginia… there are not a lot of dispensaries, but we’re expecting them to open soon,” Dutcher said.

So far, Dutcher said the main work of Veriheal in Virginia has been laying the groundwork, like getting patients pre-registered to be able to legally use marijuana as soon as its legalized. Dutcher said that in many areas of Virginia, having a medical marijuana card could open up a little leeway with law enforcement if they are found to be in possession. In Alexandria, Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter has been taking steps to offer alternatives to prosecuting marijuana cases, though Porter has also acknowledged that his powers there are limited until the state legislature decriminalizes marijuana possession.

Simultaneously, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) has been leading an effort to decriminalize marijuana use — though some say those efforts don’t go far enough.

Dutcher says Veriheal also pushes for Virginia to open up telemedicine — accessing doctors via phone or computer rather than in-person visits — to help people in areas of the state without immediate access to doctors who can grant medical marijuana licenses.

“We really push that telemedicine helps open that up,” Dutcher said. “Virginia doesn’t have that yet.”

As marijuana laws continue to change, Veriheal also walks a line of tenuous relevance. In some states that are starting to open up to medical marijuana, full legalization is already on the horizon, which would eliminate the need for a medical marijuana card.

“That’s something we think about every day,” Dutcher said. “We’re diversifying, which is why we’re taking the wellness approach as well. So even if it does go recreational we can still help those people with a wellness plan.”

Photo via Veriheal/Facebook

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Alexandria officials are still working through the details, but there’s an unmistakable air of excitement from city staff and leadership when it comes to turning part of King Street into a pedestrian-only zone.

The proposal would close one block of King Street — between Lee Street and Union Street — to car traffic on weekends and turn it into a pedestrian-only zone.

Staff presented the latest on the plan to the Transportation Commission on Wednesday, Jan. 15, after which the Commission unanimously approved the plan and speculated that the closures could become permanent if all goes well.

Outreach for the project is planned to continue over the next month, with meetings scheduled with the Small Business Development Association, Visit Alexandria, and Old Town businesses next week.

An open house for the project is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 23. The City Council is scheduled to vote on the project on Feb. 25 and, if approved, the closure would start on April 18.

Deputy Director for Transportation Hillary Orr told the Transportation Commission the main concerns they’ve heard voiced are about the safety of the project. Police have suggested the use of solid barriers that have to be screwed in (and unscrewed for removal), a proposal also endorsed by the Fire Department due to concerns about vehicles entering the pedestrian zone — inadvertently or otherwise.

City staff said they are also looking into types of plants and stones that could provide additional barriers.

Orr noted that the intersection of King Street and Union Street has been a transportation challenge for city staff for years, particularly with vehicles turning onto one of the most pedestrian-heavy sections of Old Town.

“Removing turning vehicles from that intersection actually makes it safer,” Orr said.

Orr described the project’s components as “pilots within a pilot,” saying that pieces of the project like changes to loading zones, parking, and vehicular traffic patterns could impact city policy beyond just this closure.

The owner of a few nearby properties raised some concerns at the meeting, noting that the alleyway to the south being proposed for deliveries and loading is very narrow and could pose a safety risk with cars increasingly using it to get around the closed King Street.

In addition to car access, the plan will remove parking spaces not just on that block, but on Lee Street and a block east on King Street.

If approved, the closures would last from April to October, but the Transportation Commission members already expressed enthusiasm for seeing the project extended or made permanent if the closure this summer goes well.

“I’m excited,” said Transportation Commission chair Melissa McMahon. “We’ll see what happens in October.”

Image (top) via City of Alexandria (middle) via Google Maps

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Alexandria is one of more than a dozen localities in Virginia — including Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties — that will be receiving electric school buses by the end of 2020, Dominion Energy announced today.

The first phase of a project to replace diesel-powered buses entirely will start with distributing a total of 50 electric school buses to 16 school divisions spread out across the state. It’s unclear how many buses Alexandria will receive.

Dominion said the locations were selected based on the benefit the bus batteries would bring to the electric grid. Per a press release:

The electric school buses will serve as a grid resource by creating additional energy storage technology to support the company’s integration of distributed renewables such as solar and wind. The “vehicle-to-grid” technology leverages the bus batteries to store and inject energy onto the grid during periods of high demand when the buses are not needed for transport. The buses also provide environmental and health benefits through reduced emissions and reduce operation and maintenance costs for schools by up to 60 percent.

The press release noted that Thomas Built Buses, a North Carolina-based company that specializes in building school buses, was chosen as the vendor for the first phase of the project.

The second phase of the project would, with state approval, expand the program to 1,000 additional buses by 2025. Phase three would replace 50 percent of all diesel buses by 2025 and 100 percent by 2030.

Photo via Thomas Built Buses/Facebook

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Starting this weekend, roughly 70 restaurants throughout Alexandria will start offering new specials on multi-course meals to get locals to try new places.

Alexandria’s Winter Restaurant Week is scheduled to run for just over a week, from tomorrow (Friday) through Sunday, (Jan. 26). The event, put together by Visit Alexandria, aims to showcase local chefs in areas throughout the city.

While many of the restaurants are in Del Ray and Old Town, the West End, North Ridge, and the Landmark area are also represented. A list of all participating restaurants, as well as a map showing where the restaurants are located, is online.

New restaurants this year include:

Three-course dinners will be $35 per person. A one-course dinner for two is offered for the same price, $35. Also during Restaurant Week, 35 of the restaurants will offer lunch menus at $15 or $22 per person, while more than a dozen restaurants will offer $15-$22 brunches.

Photo via Rus Uz/Facebook

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When the Chevy Chase bistro Little Beast announced that they would be bringing back their bakery, Washingtonian senior editor Andrew Beaujon celebrated the long-awaited D.C. arrival of an exotic breakfast treat: The Cruffin.

But not so fast! Other astute readers rightly noted that Junction Bakery and Bistro in Del Ray (1508 Mt. Vernon Avenue) already has cruffins. So who gets to lay claim to crushin’ the first cruffin in the region?

For those of you who don’t know, cruffins are the final result of a Dr. Moreau-esque hybrid where a croissant’s flayed dough is wrapped around the flesh of assorted fillings, and stuffed into a muffin mold.

In accordance with Betteridge’s law of headlines: no. Junction’s cruffins preceded the re-opening of Little Bistro’s bakery, but other bakeries around the region had them first.

It is true that Junction Bakery has cruffins in a variety of flavors. Today (Wednesday) those flavors are chocolate hazelnut and raspberry. There are no egg or dairy-free options, so this vegan ALXnow reporter could not personally vouch for them, but others in the restaurant and on Twitter claimed to enjoy them.

Staff at the restaurant said they’ve been very popular, but noted that Junction Bakery was not the first in the area to stuff a cruffin.

A Washingtonian article from 2016 said Bayou Bakery in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood has cruffins, though that was on Fridays only at the time and staff said they don’t currently have cruffins available. Eater credited Bayou Bakery with introducing the cruffin to the region.

Staff at Junction Bakery said they started serving cruffins six months ago, so that would also not pre-date Little Beast’s initial bakery run in the fall of 2018.

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Old Town barbecue joint Myron Mixon, tucked away off the main drag at 220 N. Lee Street, is celebrating three years in business with a party tomorrow.

Starting at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the restaurant will be serving up a whole hog to celebrate the restaurant’s anniversary. Tickets are $22 and guests will also receive a free bottle of Myron Mixon’s barbecue sauce or rub, according to the Facebook page.

The restaurant started in 2017 as a project from Myron Mixon, a celebrity pitmaster from the show BBQ Pitmasters. An in-depth profile of the restaurant from the Washington Post’s Tim Carman praised the restaurant’s dedication to perfectly cooked and smoked meats, but said some of the sides taste “as if they were dumped from a can.”

The restaurant is also planning to offer $1 mimosas this weekend as part of the anniversary celebrations.

Photo via Myron Mixon/Facebook

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Do you know your Dr. J.D. from your Captain B.J.? Your Cheers from your MacLaren’s?

Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company will be putting your comedy knowledge to the test this Thursday (Jan. 16) at Sitcom Trivia.

The event is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. at the brewery (2950 Wheeler Avenue). For early birds, Port City’s tasting room opens at 4 p.m.

The contest also marks the premiere of a brand new trivia season for the bar. Last year’s topics included Star Wars and serial killers. According to the Facebook page:

Held in front of a live studio audience, we present a non-televised TV event like no other. We proudly introduce the world premiere of Port City Sitcom Trivia! (audience applause)

Teams are limited to no more than six people, and no smartphones or mobile devices are allowed during the competition.

Admission is $7 per team and can be reserved online, though spots tend to fill up quickly.

Photo via Port City Brewing Company/Facebook

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A new restaurant called Thai Signature could be taking over 722 King Street, once home to local establishment Geranio Ristorante.

Geranio Ristorante closed in 2018 after 42 years of serving up Italian meals and the building has been empty since then. Recently filed permits show, however, that Thai Signature could be taking over the space with a focus on offering street food from Thailand. The restaurant will also have a bar serving wine, beer and cocktails.

Before Thai Signature opens, new restaurant will also have something of a facelift, with plans to remove the awning and replace the front facade with a new green and white design.

The space was originally a cobbler shop in the 1880s but the current building was constructed sometime between 1902 and 1907, according to a city staff report.

The original plan was a wall-to-wall glass building with a very modern design, Historic Preservation Manager Al Cox said, but staff worked with the applicant for something more Old Town appropriate. The new designs were unanimously approved at the Dec. 18 Board of Architectural Review meeting.

On the same block, a new pair of restaurants called The Handover and The King’s Ransom are in the works for the space that was once Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper and Bar PX, with signs recently placed in the window.

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(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Police calls for serious crime in Alexandria rose in 2019, though misdemeanors have generally been on the decline, according to a new report.

Data in the city’s Crime and Quality of Life report shows that overall, felony dispatches have increased by 4.2% in Alexandria. Between 2018-2019, aggravated assaults increased from 151 to 208, a 37.7% increase.

The numbers for some of the crimes — like homicide and rape — are low enough that changes are unlikely to demonstrate a trend.

The report was given to the Health and Safety Coordinating Committee on Jan. 3 but isn’t available online and, the report notes, these are not the official year-end totals.

While robberies, aggravated assault, larceny and motor vehicle theft all increased from 2018 to 2019, annual reports from earlier years show no consistent increase or decrease between years to indicate a trend.

Misdemeanors decreased over the last year by 1.4%, with drug and alcohol-related crimes seeing some of the biggest declines.

“The largest decreases were in drug/narcotic offenses with -11.1% and drinking-related incidents, which includes DUI, drunkenness, and liquor law violations, all of which were between -11.5% and -15.4% lower than 2018’s totals,” the report said.

The stats are raw, preliminary figures that represent police calls for service for specific types of incidents, not actual charges filed, a police spokesman noted.

File photo

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When Riverside Taco comes back to the Alexandria waterfront this spring, it could be expanded into a new music venue.

The eatery currently consists of the Airstream trailer that dispenses tacos, soft drinks, and beer — seasonally — as well as a 90-seat picnic table area. A new special use permit (SUP) requested for Riverside Taco would allow the market to host live acoustic entertainment.

“The outdoor market will continue current operations, but would feature live acoustic musicians and/or amplified background music for market patrons and passerby during the hours of operations,” the permit said. “This change is consistent with other approvals along the Waterfront, and aligns with the goals of the Waterfront Small Area Plan which calls for a variety of creative, dynamic, and inclusive uses at the Waterfront to create ‘better public spaces.'”

The permit says the added music would enhance and activate the waterfront, citing proximity to the Torpedo Factory Arts Center and the bevy of artists working on the waterfront as compatible local arts uses.

The permit is scheduled to go to the City Council for review on March 3.

Photo via Riverside Taco Company/Facebook

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Alexandria is offering free Narcan training, which teaches members of the public how to spot and reverse an opioid overdose, starting tomorrow.

Narcan is a prescription medicine that can reverse an opioid overdose through injection or intranasal mist. Last year, Alexandria Police Department Lt. Mike Kochis was credited with saving the life of an unconscious man in Carlyle with a Narcan dose.

Participants in the class will also receive a free medical kid with Narcan/Naloxone included. According to a press release from the City of Alexandria:

The Department of Community and Human Services hosts free REVIVE! training sessions to teach any member of the public about opioids, how opioid overdoses happen, the risk factors for opioid overdoses, and how to respond to an opioid overdose emergency using Narcan/Naloxone. If you or a loved one are prescribed opioid painkillers, or are taking opioids, you should take this training and have Narcan/Naloxone on hand.

No RSVP or registration for the class is required.

The program is offered twice monthly: on the second Tuesday of each month from 10-11 a.m. and on the fourth Thursday, from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

The classes will be held in the Department of Community and Human Services (2355 Mill Road).

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An elderly, golden-haired cocker spaniel named Solo is, ironically, looking for some companionship.

The 10-year old spaniel at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (4101 Eisenhower Avenue) has a number of tricks he’s been showing off in foster care — like sit, stay, down and come — but also has a more specialized ability to find treats hidden around a room on command.

“With his golden, flowing locks and award-winning smile, you might think Solo was an international dog model, but in fact, he’s just a sweet senior spaniel looking for a home,” said Gina Hardter, spokeswoman for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria.

Solo has a liver condition, but it’s well managed with medication, Hardter said.

“He plays like a puppy, but he’s a perfect gentleman on a walk,” Hardter said. “Despite his puppy-like demeanor, he’s looking for a home in the company of like-minded adults (or older children) where he can snuggle, play and enjoy the occasional well-deserved nap in the sun.”

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