Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) doesn't support legalizing recreational marijuana, but he doesn't mind posing with it - as long as Willie Nelson's around, at least. The prohibitionist governor got into hot water this week after a picture circulated showing him sitting with Nelson on the country music legend's tour bus, which stopped in Bristow to perform at Farm Aid.
Between them on the table sits a quarter-ounce container of Willie's Reserve, Nelson's brand of recreational marijuana that is sold legally in Colorado. The picture was posted by none other than Willie's wife Annie, which makes you wonder if McAuliffe was caught in a sting of sorts.
Zaid Jilani and Naomi LaChance of The Intercept pointed out that there's also a grinder on the table. Virginia's laws ban the possession of marijuana and related paraphernalia.
Now before you start saying we should go easy on McAuliffe, keep in mind that in Virginia 35,597 drug-related arrests were reported in Virginia last year and 59 percent of them (over 20,000) were marijuana-related. That's almost 10 times the number of heroin busts made in the Old Dominion State last year. It's inappropriate, to say the least, that he was caught in a photo-op like this - unless he were to announce he'd changed his stance on leglization.
His defence? Ignorance. Shortly after the story broke, McAuliffe's spokesman Brian Coy told the Richmond Times Dispatch that the governor had no idea there was cannabis on the bus. “He was not and still is not aware of whatever was on the table or anywhere around him and wouldn’t know marijuana or related paraphernalia if it walked up and shook his hand.”
That's a tough case to make considering that Nelson's bus is basically a cannabis delivery system - like a roving hotbox. Nelson has posed with cannabis on the bus before, and he's had celebrities including retired NFL player Ricky Williams aboard for smoke sessions. The bus also made headlines when it became the center of Nelson's 2006 drug bust.
But the most damning bit of evidence is the fact that the vehicle got a shoutout in Toby Keith's song I'll Never Smoke Weed with Willie Again, which retells his unfortunate experience when he sat on the bus - likely in the same spot where McAuliffe posed for Annie. And since McAuliffe recently opened the country music museum in Virginia, it doesn't seem reasonable for him to claim ignorance of Willie's reputation as a consumer or his bus' notorious reputation in country and cannabis culture.
And if he truly is so unaware of cannabis, then he shouldn't be the one handling the state's marijuana policies, according to Jenn Michelle Pedini -- Executive Director of Virginia NORML.
“No one would like Willie Nelson to be arrested, or the governor - who unlike thousands of Virginians this year - was not arrested for sitting with another privileged white man with marijuana and paraphernalia in their presence,” she told The Intercept. “And I think that’s the biggest disconnect, even if the governor wants to admit his willful ignorance to this nontoxic substance that thousands of his constituents consume on a regular basis, if he is so ignorant of it, then he probably should not be dictating policies on stuff that he doesn’t even appear to understand.”