Once a ‘Marijuana Martyr’ Roger Trenton Davis Hopes to Go Legal This Time | Local news

Roger Trenton Davis hopes the marijuana business will finally pay off for him.

This was not the case for a long time. In the 1970s, Davis became known nationally as the “Marijuana Martyr” after a Wythe County jury sentenced him to 40 years in prison for possession of approximately 9 ounces of the drug in intend to distribute it.

Now that possession is legal in Virginia under limited circumstances, Davis is trying again.

Vinton’s man wants to start a new business and seeks permission to begin research and development from the Cannabis Control Authority, which was established by the 2021 General Assembly to work out the details of legalization of marijuana.

Davis, 76, plans to apply for a license when they become available in 2023.

Lawmakers have recognized, by voting to allow simple possession of marijuana and home cultivation of up to four plants per household, that black people and other minorities have suffered for decades from brutal and disproportionate law enforcement. .

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A good example: forty years in prison – more than what many sex offenders and murderers get – for a 28-year-old man who committed an offense that by today’s standards would likely result in a civil fine of 25. $.

“I got screwed and I know it, so let’s fix it,” Davis said. “They have to catch up. Not just for me, but for the state of Virginia. And especially to blacks.

Under the new law, a social equity program will be put in place to encourage diverse participation in the cannabis industry and to reinvest in communities that have been disproportionately affected.

“It’s not a matter of need or greed,” Davis said. “It’s about uplifting people. “

In a petition filed earlier this month with the Cannabis Control Authority, Davis says his trademark OMM (Original Marijuana Martyr) represents a “demand for social fairness” and should be approved to allow planning for a harvest. ‘about 40,000 marijuana plants.

Disadvantaged citizens would have the option of purchasing the OMM brand through a “sharing cultures” model, Davis wrote.

“The notion of sharecropping may seem archaic to some, but the point is that it is a business model that continues to thrive in today’s world, albeit under different legal terms,” ​​the petition.

Davis said he may make his product available to renters in subsidized housing – which fall under federal laws that still ban marijuana – and people who live in homes with insufficient grow space or other circumstances that practically prevent them from enjoying the four plants that the law allows them to have.

In a recent interview, Davis said that many people who just don’t know how to grow a good toke could benefit from someone like him, who would grow their four licensed plants.

“It’s people like me who have to come out of the woods and help with this thing for it to be successful,” he said.

“Few people have a higher profile in the criminal justice system than I do,” Davis wrote in the petition. “True or false, I have connections. Connections that I would like to use for the greater good.

With the authority’s permission, Davis said he would initiate discussions with community organizations, social agencies and others to help identify potential clients. It could also be addressed to investors.

“Special authorization also provides some level of assurance that the necessary license will be available in 2023,” he wrote in his petition.

In July, shortly after the first phase of Virginia’s marijuana legalization law came into effect, Davis told the Roanoke Times he hoped to use his story – which was featured in the 1970s. through publications like Rolling Stone, High Times and Playboy, and then through more mainstream media – to help get the message across that minorities and low-income people should not be left behind.

Davis said he was encouraged by Governor Ralph Northam, who invited him to Richmond to attend a bill signing ceremony.

“It’s hard to explain what it feels like to move from jail to the governor’s mansion,” Davis said. “It was really an eye-opening experience. “

At the time, a spokeswoman for the governor noted data that shows blacks use marijuana at the same rate as whites, but are three and a half times more likely to be charged.

“Roger Trenton Davis is one of the many people whose lives have been turned upside down by the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws – and we felt it was important that he had the opportunity to join us as we put an end to it, “wrote Alena Yarmosky in an email.

When asked if the Cannabis Authority received Davis’ petition and if it had the legal authority to do what he asks, Yarmosky did not respond on Monday.

The law must be enacted by the General Assembly before the retail sale of marijuana can be legalized, effective January 1, 2024.

Governor Northam, a Democrat, will be stepping down soon. There is some uncertainty over what new Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and a new GOP majority elected to the House of Delegates will do with a law that is half-passed and widely encouraged by Democrats.

Currently, adults are allowed to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Having up to a pound is considered a civil offense punishable by a fine of $ 25. Possession of more than one pound remains illegal.

While full legalization has yet to take place, Davis said he wasn’t too worried.

“Republicans smoke weed, too,” he said with a smile that appeared frequently in an hour-long interview earlier this month.

“Gov. Youngkin is a businessman, and he’s going to take care of business. I believe he has a desire to be governor for everyone in Virginia. This includes me.

Since his release from prison in 2011, Davis has led a quiet life, working for a construction company in Roanoke and making trekking poles and necklaces in his spare time.

With the repeal of the laws that led to his incarceration half a century ago, Davis has found himself in the limelight. Reporters call him again and groups like the Urban Institute have asked him to speak. He doesn’t overdo it, however.

“I’m not looking for any distinction,” he said. “What I’m looking for is a commercial license.”

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