Marijuana was legalized in 2021, but Alexandria is hoping 2023 is the year the state finally settles the weird issues around selling weed.
Currently, it’s legal to possess small amounts of pot and grow them at home, but it’s still illegal to buy it commercially without a medical card.
Among the dozens of bills related to everything from historic preservation commission membership to laws around disability language, the status of marijuana is one that city leaders said could grow as the session goes on.
At a meeting of the City Council Legislative Subcommittee last week, Alexandria leaders took a look at House Bill 1464 from Del. Keith Hodges (R-98).
According to the state’s legislative information system, the bill:
Establishes a framework for the creation of a retail marijuana market in the Commonwealth, which would be administered by the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. The bill allows the Authority to begin issuing marijuana licenses on July 1, 2024. The bill allows, beginning July 1, 2023, certain pharmaceutical and industrial hemp processors, pending establishment of the retail market, to cultivate, manufacture, and sell cannabis products to persons 21 years of age or older.
Legislative Director Sarah Taylor said the Republican majority in the House of Delegates might address the retail sale of marijuana in a large bill or could push the responsibility away from the legislative side of government.
“Do you get the sense that there is the feeling from the house majority that they need to figure out marijuana this year?” Mayor Justin Wilson asked ‘bluntly’.
“Yes, but I think what ‘figure it out’ means could be two different ways,” Taylor said. “One would be cleaning up a full bill… it could be another big bill. The other thought is it could be a skinny bill that just kicks the whole thing to the regulatory environment. Instead of legislating it, [this would be] putting it all in code. It would provide some guardrails and kick it to the regulatory environment.”
The one legislation Taylor said seemed certain to move forward is legislation connected to restricting “youth access” to marijuana.
The topic of legalizing the retail sale of marijuana also touches on a long-festering issue dividing local and state leadership: the Dillon Rule, which says localities can only exercise authorities granted to them by the state.
Taylor said some localities have tried to use zoning to prohibit marijuana from being sold in their communities, which has rubbed some state leadership the wrong way.
“The one thing we should be thoughtful about is what this means for our zoning authority,” Taylor said. “My understanding is some of the folks involved in our negotiations last year are unhappy with localities that have used their authority to essentially redline cannabis retail out of parts of their community. Those localities have made some of those folks grumpy and the rest of us may have to suffer a little bit for that.”
Taylor said the discussion is likely to “grow and evolve” as the legislative session continues.
“I do agree they need to figure this out,” Wilson said. “I like the idea of them figuring this out sooner rather than later.”
Photo via Wesley Gibbs/Unsplash
After a lengthy trial, a hung jury couldn’t reach a verdict against a 24-year-old California man accused of murdering a man in the West End in 2020, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney will retry the case in February.
On Thursday (Dec. 15), the jury remained deadlocked on whether Ahmed Mohammed Shareef should be charged with murder or manslaughter in the Nov. 2020 shooting death of 23-year old Yousef Omar. The jury did, however, find Shareef guilty of racketeering with 20 others for operating a drug trafficking organization between the D.C. Metro area and Los Angeles, California.
Shareef is claiming self-defense and pleaded not guilty to all charges. He will be retried for the murder charge on February 16, Alexandria’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter told ALXnow.
“The jury trial was extremely lengthy,” Porter said. “It started the very beginning of November, and was a six-week trial. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury convicted him of racketeering, but was unable to reach a verdict on the murder charge. The case has been continued to February 16.”
Sentencing is being withheld for the racketeering charges until the conclusion of the upcoming murder trial. Shareef faces life in prison for the murder charge and up to 40 years for the racketeering charge.
Omar was found shot multiple times in the driver’s seat of a 2016 silver Mercedes E350 on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 17, 2020. A firearm was found near Omar’s body, as well as numerous shell casings, indicating that he fired at his attacker. A half-hour after the shooting, Shareef checked himself into Howard University Hospital with a gunshot wound, police said in a search warrant affidavit.
The investigation of the drug trafficking organization resulted in the arrest of 20 individuals, including Shareef, and the seizure of $500,000 worth of marijuana, nearly $275,000 in cash, 23 firearms, cocaine and other drugs, digital scales, money counters, fake identifications and a number of vehicles.
“The investigation also revealed that the likely motive (of the murder) was over an unresolved drug debt and potential interference by the victim to pry customers away from the (drug trafficking organization),” police said in a search warrant affidavit.
A witness told police that they saw Shareef and Omar in the Mercedes, parked across the street from the Newport Village apartment complex near Fort Ward Park.
The witness saw Shareef “exit the vehicle and proceed to shoot the victim multiple times as he sat in the driver’s seat, striking him multiple times,” according to the search warrant affidavit. “The suspect then ran to a waiting vehicle, entering the front passenger seat and fleeing the scene.”
The incident was the third and final homicide of 2020.
A police investigation determined that Shareef and his co-conspirators ferried marijuana from Los Angeles to the D.C. Metro area in large suitcases on commercial airliners. In many instances, the suspect who checked the baggage in California would not get on flights and the bags, with different names on identification tags, would be picked up by other suspects in Virginia. The marijuana in the luggage was found in vacuum-sealed bags.
“The method included top tier traffickers purchasing flights for individuals and packing large suitcases with other materials to conceal large quantities of marijuana, ensuring that the bag was checked approximately 50 minutes before the flight left and would often be picked up by different individuals at DCA (Washington Reagan International Airport) and IAD (Dulles International) airports in the Commonwealth,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.
(The story previously said incorrectly that Shareef is defending himself. That is not accurate. He is instead claiming self-defense.)
Two Alexandria men were arrested last month for drug possession and allegedly attempting to flee from police in the Landmark area.
The suspects were arrested after getting pulled over in the 6100 block of Edsall Road on Saturday, Jan. 8.
Police found a digital scale with white powder residue in plain view in the driver’s side door, and then found 3.5 grams of suspected marijuana and an unspecified amount of suspected cocaine in the center console, according to a search warrant.
Police also found plastic baggies with small amounts of marijuana inside a black and white Air Jordan shoe box on the floor of the front passenger’s seat.
The 20-year-old driver, a Fairfax County man, was transferred to another jurisdiction and charged with identity fraud to avoid arrest/impede investigation, fleeing from law enforcement, assault and battery and failure to appear in court. He was arrested carrying nearly $2,000 in cash.
The 23-year-old passenger, an Alexandria man, was released on $50 bond that same day and the charges against him were dropped.
Booster shot preparations for adults made in Alexandria — “After a White House announcement that a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine could be available to adults as soon as Sept. 20, the City of Alexandria is preparing to administer the additional doses.” [Patch]
Efforts underway to educate public as city adjusts to marijuana legalization — “In order to spread awareness about the details of the bill and quell community concerns, the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria worked with the governor’s office to release a “Top 10″ list for youth and adults that concretely explains the new measure’s rules and regulations.” [Alextimes]
Behind the scenes at ‘The Loft’ with Lena’s seasonal transformations — “When the theme at the Loft at Lena’s changes for the season, it’s a top to bottom change. New menus are developed, staff don new uniforms and even the lighting is completely redone. The loft closes down on Sunday and is closed for four days before reopening in time for Friday dinner. During that time it’s a 24/7 process that involves the whole team at Lena’s.” [Alexandria Living]
Median home prices to rise steadily in Northern Virginia — “The median price of sold homes will continue its upward trend across Northern Virginia, but the rise in prices will slow down in the coming months, according to a new report from the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University (GMU-CRA) and the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR).” [Alexandria Living]
Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with scattered thunderstorms arriving in the afternoon. High 79F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%. Locally heavy rainfall possible… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening, then variable clouds overnight with more showers at times. Low around 70F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 40%.” [Weather.com]
New job: Auto sales representative — “NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED!! WE WILL TRAIN YOU!! OURISMAN CHRYSLER / JEEP / DODGE / RAM NEEDS SALESPEOPLE!!…..one of Virginia’s most respected automotive groups is offering an opportunity to join their automotive sales team” [Indeed]
More details have been released on the murder of a 23-year-old man in the West End last year, and the criminal organization the suspect was involved with that was brought down by the Alexandria Police Department.
The victim, Yousef Omar, was found shot multiple times on Saturday, November 7, 2020. He was in the driver’s seat of a 2016 silver Mercedes E350, and a firearm was found near his body, as well as numerous shell casings, indicating that he may have fired at his attacker.
In June, 23-year-old Ahmed Mohammed Shareef, of Cosa Mesta, California, was indicted for Omar’s murder, and was one of 20 people indicted and arrested on charges related to a massive racketeering conspiracy that involved a “complex drug trafficking organization” allegedly responsible for the sale of approximately $500,000 worth of marijuana.
A witness told police that they saw Shareef and Omar driving together, and saw Shareef “exit the vehicle and proceed to shoot the victim multiple times as he sat in the driver’s sear, striking him multiple times,” police said in a search warrant. “The suspect then ran to a waiting vehicle, entering the front passenger seat and fleeing the scene.”
Shareef, wounded by a gunshot, checked himself into Howard University Hospital a half hour after the murder, police said.
Omar was parked across the street from the Newport Village apartment complex near Fort Ward Park, and was pronounced dead shortly after the shooting — at around 3:30 p.m. It was the third and final homicide of the year.
“The investigation also revealed that the likely motive (of the murder) was over an unresolved drug debt and potential interference by the victim to pry customers away from the (drug trafficking organization),” police said.
The investigation of the drug trafficking organization resulted in the arrest of 20 individuals, including Shareef, and seizure of $500,000 worth of marijuana, nearly $275,000 in cash, 23 firearms, cocaine and other drugs, digital scales, money counters, fake identifications and a number of vehicles.
Police found that the suspects’ drug trafficking organization was operational for years, with suspects ferrying marijuana between Los Angeles, California, and airports around Alexandria, in large suitcases on commercial airliners. In many instances, the suspect who checked the baggage in California would not get on flights and the bags, with different names on identification tags, would be picked up by other suspects in Virginia. The marijuana in the luggage was found in vacuum-sealed bags.
“The method included top tier traffickers purchasing flights for individuals and packing large suitcases with other materials to conceal large quantities of marijuana, ensuring that the bag was checked approximately 50 minutes before the flight left and would often be picked up by different individuals at DCA (Washington Reagan International Airport) and IAD (Dulles International) airports in the Commonwealth,” police said.
The investigation, which included multiple law enforcement agencies throughout the region and in Washington State and California, resulted in the seizure of 23 firearms, nearly $275,000 in U.S. currency, as well as cocaine and other controlled substances, digital scales, electronic money counters, fake identifications and multiple vehicles.
Shareef faces life in prison for the murder charge, three years for the firearms charge and up to 40 years for the racketeering charge.
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.
- Pot enthusiasts quiet in early days of legalization in Alexandria
- Alexandria sees 90 COVID cases in July, another death
- Local historians profile former slave in Alexandria who struggled to rescue his family
- Alexandria man caught with gun at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport checkpoint
- New Potomac Yard luxury condo community sells 30% of properties before construction starts
- Testing for Alexandria’s controversial stream restoration work starts next week
- Two years after massive flooding, city moves forward with Holmes Run trail restoration
- Del Ray licensed family counselor completely booked since launching in May
- Alexandria businesses advised to sharpen e-commerce as consumer patterns evolve
- Alexandria swimming pools operating with reduced hours, residents signing waitlists with capacity overload
- Without annual music festival, Del Ray is celebrating with a bar crawl
- Del Ray affordable housing completes long-awaited overhaul
- Woman claims she was roofied at Old Town restaurant
- Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
- Developers eye Beauregard redevelopment with West End upgrades on the horizon
- Former chef at ‘The Alexandrian’ opening new restaurant in Arlandria on Monday
- No injuries after shots fired in Braddock area on Wednesday
- DASH takes lessons from D.C., Baltimore and Oregon in eliminating bus fares
- ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
- After last month’s Democratic primary, Republican Darryl Nirenberg tops campaign donation leaderboard
- New city health improvement plan aims to fix inequities
- Poll: Have you been to the Winkler Botanical Preserve?
- Lee-Fendall House to throw speakeasy party to finance building repairs
Have a safe weekend!
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
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]
(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.
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]