What an unexpectedly busy summer week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on an Alexandria woman who claims she was roofied at a restaurant on the waterfront on the evening of July 9. A police report has been filed, and no charges have been made.

This week we sat down with acting Police Chief Don Hayes, who said that he’s thrown his hat in the ring with City Manager Mark Jinks to keep the top job. Hayes, a 40-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department took over after the sudden departure of Chief Michael Brown last month, and will have to contend against candidates in a national search.

The Tokyo Olympics also start this week, and the games will include three T.C. Williams High School graduates — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley. In fact, Lyles just had a comic book biography published in the Washington Post. If you’re a fan of the Olympic games, check out this list of local restaurants celebrating with special events and meals.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Woman claims she was roofied at Old Town restaurant
  2. Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
  3. Developers eye Beauregard redevelopment with West End upgrades on the horizon
  4. Former chef at ‘The Alexandrian’ opening new restaurant in Arlandria on Monday
  5. No injuries after shots fired in Braddock area on Wednesday
  6. DASH takes lessons from D.C., Baltimore and Oregon in eliminating bus fares
  7. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  8. After last month’s Democratic primary, Republican Darryl Nirenberg tops campaign donation leaderboard
  9. New city health improvement plan aims to fix inequities
  10. Poll: Have you been to the Winkler Botanical Preserve?
  11. Lee-Fendall House to throw speakeasy party to finance building repairs

Have a safe weekend!

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While owning up to an ounce of marijuana is now legal in Virginia, there’s been a delayed reaction in Alexandria.

Since July 1, it’s also been legal to grow up to four plants and to gift up to an ounce.

Del Ray resident Devin Fraley has been growing in his back yard for more than a year.

“Last summer somebody gave me a seed,” Fraley said. “I just put it into the ground next to our tomatoes. We grow small plants, and it was kind of fun to watch it grow between the peppers and tomatoes. It broke during a rainstorm in the fall, and we harvested it and I gave the buds to my mother-in-law. This year we decided to do the same thing. We have one plant, and we are not growers.”

Not much has changed from a behavioral or law enforcement standpoint, acting Police Chief Don Hayes told ALXnow.

“There’s still not enough evidence to see how it’s gonna sway what we do one way or the other,” Hayes said, adding that the department hasn’t received many pot-related calls for service. “Only time will tell.”

One incident caused concern in Old Town last Sunday, July 18. A woman was walking her puppy in Founders Park near the waterfront when it ate some discarded marijuana.

“Someone dropped marijuana in the park earlier and she ate it sending us to the veterinary emergency room,” the woman wrote on Nextdoor. “This was a touch and go situation. She is fine now. This is just a cautionary note – so (be) on the lookout. The Vet said they are seeing a lot more of this recently and honestly they seem to know what was wrong almost immediately.”

Fraley said his neighbors still won’t talk about marijuana.

“This is still illegal federally,” he said. “If you have a federal job, it’s not okay for you to partake in. I’m sure there are other people doing it, but it’s still something that you wouldn’t want to talk about because you have a very valuable crop that can be stolen easily. Even though it’s legal, people still aren’t talking about it.”

In Old Town, resident Fawn Lee said that legalization has started to remove the negative stigma around pot.

“It feels easier to talk about it as a part of my life, as something that relieves my stress and anxiety,” Lee said. “It also means that I can talk about it without fearing repercussions for my daughter’s school or anyone else that cares for her or is around her in any capacity, because it’s no longer illegal.”

While the recreational sale of marijuana is three years away, possession of more than an ounce, but less than a pound, is still a civil penalty of $25. Possessing more than that is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $250,000.

Alexandria says marijuana will “keep you from doing your best” and warns against deteriorating IQs, school performance and quality of life.

“Studies also consistently show that individuals that use marijuana are less likely to graduate from high school or college and more likely to be unemployed,” the City said in a release.

Fraley recently found a downside to growing.

“The plant is doing fine, but I think it’s a male which means it doesn’t have any hallucinogenic properties, so it’s really just garbage,” he said.

via Wesley Gibbs/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

New Virginia laws on marijuana, death penalty take effect today — ” Virginia lawmakers voted earlier this year to end executions, marking a dramatic change in direction for a state that has executed the most people in the nation’s history. Only two men remain on death row in Virginia. Their sentences will be commuted to life in prison without parole. The state will also legalize simple possession of marijuana, effective July 1, and allow adults to grow up to four marijuana plants per household.” [Patch]

Rare bird visits Huntley Meadows Park — “A Roseate Spoonbill, which the Audubon Society describes as “gorgeous at a distance and bizarre up close,” landed in Huntley Meadows this week, drawing hundreds of local nature photographers. The bird is far from its normal home in Florida, Louisiana, Texas and other parts of the far Southeastern United States. No one is sure why this spoonbill came so far north, but a recent tropical storm in the Southeast may have sent many birds flying for safer locales.” [Alexandria Living]

New lights installed at Armistead Boothe Park — “The existing pole lights at Armistead Boothe Park’s tennis and basketball court were removed and replaced with a modern energy savings LED lighting system. Work started in June 2021 and is anticipated to be completed in mid-July 2021. Take a moment and check them out!” [Twitter]

Fire Department says fireworks are illegal and unsafe — “Did you know it’s illegal to use or sell any fireworks, including sparklers, in the city limits of Alexandria? Nationwide, fireworks cause thousands of injuries and fires each year, and 36% of those injured are under 15 years old.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Scattered thunderstorms in the morning becoming more widespread in the afternoon. Storms may contain strong gusty winds. High 87F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%… Showers and thundershowers in the evening, then overcast overnight with occasional rain. Low 67F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Locally heavy rainfall possible.” [Weather.com]

New job: Temporary COVID POD flow staff — “Are you a hardworking individual who is eager to join our efforts to augment and expedite vaccinations in the community? Does your passion drive you to commit to a cause that could have a positive impact on many? If this is you, we invite you to apply to one of our temporary City of Alexandria Vaccination site opportunities.” [Indeed]

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) A 25-year-old Washington, D.C. man is being held without bond for a high speed chase on Interstate 495.

Nye Lujeen Faulk was booked into jail on April 6 and held without bond for assaulting an officer, resisting arrest, eluding police, driving with an open container of alcohol, and possession with intent to distribute more than one ounce but not more than five pounds of marijuana.

At around 7:30 p.m. on that day, a Virginia State Police trooper was driving west on Interstate 495 toward Old Town when he reported being passed by a white Infiniti coupe traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour. A chase ensued that lasted about five minutes and speeds reached 130 miles per hour, according to a search warrant affidavit.

“Faulk made several attempts to destroy of obstruct any criminal nexus associated with the vehicle and its occupants by discarding packaging materials commonly associated with the sales and distribution of narcotics,” police reported. “Faulk ultimately lost control of his vehicle and crashed on I-495… east of Route 1 at the 177.4-mile marker.”

The chase ended when the Infiniti rear-ended a 2020 Ford Expedition, according to Virginia State Police.

“The impact of the crash caused the Infiniti to spin around into the left shoulder of the interstate and come to rest against the Jersey Wall,” VSP public relations director Corinne Geller told ALXnow. “The driver of the Expedition, a 48-year-old man from King George, Va., was not injured in the crash.”

The trooper said that two men ran from the car, and that Faulk, who was allegedly the driver, was apprehended after a “brief physical altercation with my person.”

Police found $17,518.95 in cash on Faulk, and inside the car recovered electronic scales, packaging materials and marijuana.

No information on the other suspect who fled the car was provided by Virginia State Police.

Faulk goes to court for the incident on May 7.

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Morning Notes

Virginia Governor Proposes Legalizing Marijuana This Summer — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam proposed Wednesday moving up the legalization of simple possession of marijuana to July 1, nearly three years sooner than previously planned.” [Patch]

Lena’s Pizza opens spring dining experience — “Walking in, customers will also see green grass and butterflies.” [Zebra]

Made in ALX, Blue Room Studio launch Del Ray restaurant matchbook art competition — “Local artist Laurel Prucha Moran has created a watercolor painting of a matchbook from every independent restaurant in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood — more than 30 in all. Now, Moran will put 12 of the most popular matchbook watercolor paintings, as determined by resident’s votes, on an art print that will be available for purchase only through Made in ALX.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies, with gusty winds developing during the afternoon. High 49F. Winds NW at 20 to 30 mph. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph… A few clouds. Low 29F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph. Higher wind gusts possible.” [Weather.com]

New job: Plant obsessed cashier — “Speedy Cashier needed for our busy and bustling garden center in the heart of Alexandria. Excellent people skills and proficient computer skills a must. This is a part time to full time position including weekends, with full time during peak seasons. Plant knowledge a big plus! Come grow with us!” [Indeed]

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As the state legislature continues to work towards marijuana decriminalization, members of the City Council at a meeting last night urged that revenue and opportunities from legal marijuana sales work their way back into communities long punished for its use.

“My concern is that any revenue generated by [decriminalization] is where those funds are going to,” said City Councilman Canek Aguirre. “It’s important to stress this going to people whose lives affected [and] who were locked up.”

Aguirre said that support needs to take the shape of mental health support, job training, housing assistance and food assistance — particularly for those who are being released from incarceration.

“It’s important that we play close attention to what kind of revenue is being generated and where that funding is being sent,” Aguirre said.

Councilman John Taylor Chapman agreed, saying it was important that state leadership pay attention at its upcoming legislative session to who is profiting from decriminalization.

“We [should] also pay attention to who is getting an opportunity to make revenue from this opportunity,” Chapman said. “Now that it’s legal,  [we should see] if there are certain communities where we can make it equitable.”

Profits from marijuana sales landing at large, predominately white organizations after decades of arrests and incarceration of Black Americans has generated controversy.

“We’ve seen that as an issue in other states,” Chapman said. “There needs to be a wholesome discussion.”

Photo via Wesley Gibbs/Unsplash

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Alexandria is warning residents that toxic marijuana laced with “unusual substances” has led to four recent overdoses in Prince William County.

“One person died, and the other three were revived with Narcan (naloxone), suggesting that the marijuana may have been mixed with opioids,” the city said in a release. “While use of any illegal drug is dangerous, City officials are urging residents to be especially cautious given these recent overdoses.”

There have been 10 fatal opioid overdoses in Alexandria this year, and 62 non-fatal overdoses as of August 25, according to the city.

Virginia decriminalized marijuana on July 1, and there is a civil fine of $25 for possessing up to an ounce.

The Alexandria Health Department offers Narcan for free by calling 703-746-4888, and the medication will be shipped for free for residents who contact the city’s opioid response coordinator at [email protected]

According to the city:

If you or someone you care about needs help with addiction, call 703.746.3636 (Virginia Relay 711), 24 hours a day. Individuals who do not live in Alexandria can find treatment options at samhsa.gov or by calling 800.662.HELP (4357).

If you have information regarding past overdoses, call the Alexandria Police Department at 703.746.4444.

For life-threatening situations, call or text 911 immediately.

For more information on the opioid crisis and how the City is responding, including a printable flyer on overdose symptoms and how to get help, visit  alexandriava.gov/Opioids.

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Morning Notes

(Updated 8/7) Upcoming Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend Canceled — “The coronavirus has canceled one of Alexandria’s most beloved traditions this winter.” [Alexandria Living]

Beyer Blames Trump for Coronavirus Response Failures — “The White House is simultaneously blaming state governments for Trump’s failed pandemic response and blocking federal assistance to support state and local governments.” [Twitter]

Fire Department: Use Flashlight, Not Candle if Power Goes Out — “Tropical Storm #Isaias is expected to bring heavy rain and wind gusts that may cause power outages. If you experience an outage, use a flashlight for emergency lighting instead of candles to prevent a possible fire. Be prepared. Be informed. Be ready.” [Twitter]

City Suspends Trash and Recycling Today — “Due to expected impacts from Tropical Storm Isaias, the City of Alexandria has suspended its curbside trash and recycling collection for Tuesday, August 4.” [Zebra]

Ebbin Pledges to Fight for Marijuana Legalization in 2021 — “In 2020, six years of hard work paid off in major reform to our criminal justice system by decriminalizing possession of marijuana. In 2021, I’m ready to do the hard work to legalize cannabis in Virginia the right way.” [Facebook]

Silver Diner to Open August 12 — “The 6,500-square foot restaurant is part of West Alex, a new $185 million mixed-use community at the corner of King and North Beauregard streets, anchored by an in-the-works Harris Teeter grocery store and Array, a 278-unit apartment building.” [Alexandria Living]

New Farmers Market in Carlyle Starts Friday — “The Carlyle Vitality Initiative is hosting a new Farmer’s Market at John Carlyle Square Park, starting on August 7th! We can’t wait to see you this weekend!” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Thunderstorms. Potential for heavy rainfall. Low 71F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 100%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Activities and Volunteer Coordinator — “At Sunrise, our Activities & Volunteer Coordinator is responsible for leading the day to day activities and programs for a Sunrise Senior Living community.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

The Del Ray Vintage and Flea Market is Happening — “We are BEYOND excited about having our July Del Ray Vintage & Flea Market AND we are hosting the MV Big Flea! The best of both worlds … come safely shop the flea market, see our new vendors and help support Mount Vernon Community School when you purchase from the MV Big Flea booth! Saturday, July 11th from 9am-1pm.” [Facebook]

New Driving Laws Take Effect July 1 — “On Wednesday, July 1, a new law takes effect in Virginia requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians. Further, the driver may not move until the person walking in their lane has passed safely.” [Zebra]

Marijuana Decriminalized July 1 — “ON JULY 1, VIRGINIA JOINS 26 states and Washington, D.C. in ceasing to jail people for possessing small amounts of cannabis. Gov. Ralph Northam signed SB 2 into law in May. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana will be punishable by a civil fine of up to $25 instead of a criminal charge that could mean up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. The bill prohibits employers from requiring applicants to disclose marijuana possession charges.” [Gazette]

Report: More Parents Considering Homeschooling for Their Kids — “The number of families considering homeschooling is skyrocketing according to Anne Miller, executive director of Home Educators Association of Virginia. Miller said their office has been flooded with calls from parents interested in homeschooling, and their Facebook group Homeschooling in Virginia has welcomed nearly 3,500 new members since the virus hit.” [Alexandria Living]

Sheriff’s Deputy Retires — “Our heartfelt thanks and best wishes to Master Deputy Saeed Shakoor! He is retiring after more than 26 years of dedicated service to ASO and the people of Alexandria. We’re sure going to miss you, Deputy Shakoor!” [Facebook]

Lorton Community Action Center Donates to ALIVE! — “This 788 pounds combined with other produce supports 220 food-insecure seniors in the City of Alexandria.” [Facebook]

Port City Brewing Co. Re-Releases Derecho Lager — “Derecho Lager® is named after a violent storm that barreled through the DC Metro region on June 29th, 2012, leaving the brewery without power for five days. Unable to control fermentation temperatures, a tank of freshly brewed pilsner was at risk of being lost. Realizing the beer would not meet the guidelines of a Bohemian Pilsner, we decided to experiment with the beer – keeping fermentation temperatures on the warmer side, and dry-hopping with Centennial hops. These non-traditional techniques paid off, and the result was the creation of our first American Lager!” [Facebook]

New Job: Wax Center Manager — “European Wax Center in Alexandria is currently seeking a sensational Center Manager with passion, determination and a commitment to excellence that will help take our center to new heights.” [Indeed]

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The Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney believes that the Virginia General Assembly will pass measures to decriminalize marijuana this session, but that doesn’t mean he will stop prosecuting simple possession charges.

In fact, while Bryan Porter introduced a diversion program in the summer that would allow people to be treated more leniently, that’s not stopping him from prosecuting such cases.

“In other words, the diversion program is my response to the community’s desire to have simple marijuana possession treated more leniently,” Porter told ALXnow. “I support marijuana decriminalization and I suspect that it will pass in some form during this Assembly.”

It seems like a natural conclusion — that the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the City of Alexandria will follow the letter of the law — but that’s not the case in Arlington and Fairfax County. Steve Descano, the newly elected Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney, as well as Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa ­Dehghani-Tafti, have stated that they will not prosecute simple marijuana possession charges. Both have moved to dismiss simple possession cases since taking office at the beginning of the month.

Porter said that his diversion program allows people charged with marijuana possession to avoid conviction, fines, and court costs and allows them to have the charge expunged.

“The program is prospective, meaning that someone charged today (or tomorrow) would have the opportunity to have their charge dismissed and expunged,” Porter said. “Furthermore, citizens will be allowed into the diversion program even if they have previously had a charge diverted. My diversion program has been looked to as a model by other prosecutors around the state.”

Sen. Adam Ebbin’s (D-30th) bill to decriminalize marijuana, which is working its way through the state Senate, proposes a maximum $50 civil fine for a simple possession charge. Virginia State Police reported that there were 29,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2018, accounting for 59 percent of total drug arrests.

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