(DJ Kenny Murray and NOMARAMA’s Jarrell Williams)

By Jesse Scaccia

O’Connor Brewing Company has long been known as an innovator and trailblazer. They were the first craft brewery to take up shop in south Hampton Roads, and next week they will be one of the first major brands in the Commonwealth to fully embrace the concept that, yes, marijuana can be medicine, and yes, Virginia’s marijuana laws need to continue to evolve.

“We feel it is so important to support the use of medical cannabis for those suffering from cancer, PTSD, epilepsy, and other diseases and mental health issues,” said Kevin O’Connor, owner and president of O’Connor Brewing Co., “anything that can help lessen symptoms and improve the quality of life for those suffering.”

The whole idea is to let the professionals — doctors — decide what is best for their patients.

“Doctors should be given permission and freedom to prescribe the best treatment for their patients – including  cannabis oil, ” said Penny O’Connor, the brewery’s Chief Marketing Officer and VP.

The O’Connor family has made good on their values by partnering with Virginia NORML on the first Legalize Virginia Festival, which takes place through September 21.

For beer lovers the highlight will be this Friday, when OBC releases “YES, NORFOLK CAN(yon),” a brew based on their classic Norfolk Canyon, but using hemp seeds. Friday is when a lot of the fun happens, including a NOMARAMA Munchie Market, DJs, a rad selection of local independent vendors, and a pop up yoga class with Sky’s the Limit. The party goes all day and night, from 3pm to 12am.

“This is an opportunity for the community of Virginians who believe in cannabis reform to come together, learn, and celebrate progress,” said Janelle Burchfield, an organizer of the event. “Our generation knows that it is time to end marijuana prohibition in the Commonwealth.”

While the festival atmosphere will be Friday, the rest of the week will feature educational and conversational opportunities.

Every evening will dive into a different aspect of reform. On Tuesday, 9/11 is “Equity and Expungement: Talking Marijuana and Race in Virginia.” On Thursday is what should be an exciting panel talking about what cities in Virginia can do about cannabis law reform. “Marijuana Saved My Life: Cannabis as Medicine in Virginia” occurred last Monday, before the hurricane evacuation.

“The polls overwhelmingly indicate that Virginians are ready for faster progress,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML. “We are grateful to the O’Connor family for providing this megaphone for reform. In states across the nation, we are seeing business owners like them step up and lend their voices to help lead the way. We know this is the just the beginning of industry support and community leadership in the Commonwealth.”

A portion of proceeds of Legalize Virginia Festival benefit Virginia NORML, the organization leading the way toward marijuana law changes in the Commonwealth. At the 2019 General Assembly, Virginia NORML will be lobbying for both a decriminalization bill, and an expansion of the current medical cannabis laws.

“This year the General Assembly unanimously passed a new law allowing for regulated production and expanded use of medical cannabis in the Commonwealth,” said Pedini. “We are at the very beginning of both a new industry and a new force of healing in Virginia. It is only fitting that we throw a big party to celebrate this year’s win, and get people who believe in reform ready for more big changes to come next year.”

For the full Legalize Virginia Festival schedule, click here.