Photo via scotttaylorva
A Virginia Beach man has been arrested for making death threats against a congressman over his support of cannabis decriminalization. According to court documents, 69-year-old Wallace Godwin was arrested last Friday after telling members of Representative Scott Taylor's staff that he would bring his gun to an event that the congressman was scheduled to speak at over the weekend.
Godwin allegedly told a member of Taylor's staff that “Scott is having an event this Saturday. I am going to get my shotgun and do something about this. I will just handle this myself,” The Hill reports. He then allegedly pointed to two other staff members, stating, “You two are next.” According to court documents, Godwin has been harassing Taylor and his staff since last year, and has even showed up at the lawmaker's house to argue with him personally. Police ruled these threats as credible, especially since Godwin has a concealed weapons permit.
The source of Godwin's anger appears to be Taylor's support for cannabis decriminalization. Godwin has regularly condemned marijuana via his social media accounts, writing that he is “a natural born conservative,” according to the Washington Post. “Read the Federal law on marijuana . . . Marijuana has been altering the minds of the American people since the early ’60s.” Godwin even attempted to sue the federal government last year for failing to enforce cannabis prohibition laws, but the case was quickly dismissed.
“There should never be violence. There should never be threats of violence to elected officials or their staff,” said Rep. Taylor at a press conference following Godwin's arrest, reports CBS affiliate WTKR3. “It is just unacceptable, especially my staff — they're in there to help people. They're in there to help people navigate the federal government. Violence is always serious. You should always take it serious.” Virginia police did indeed take Godwin's threats seriously, and he now stands accused of threatening to murder and assault a U.S. official, and could face up to ten years in jail.
Godwin's stance on marijuana, albeit extreme, is representative of a vocal segment of Virginians who are vehemently opposed to cannabis reform. Early this year, Virginia lawmakers proposed a bill that would decriminalize low-level cannabis possession, reducing a penalty of up to $500 and up to 30 days in jail to a maximum $250 civil fine. A state House subcommittee voted 7-1 to kill the bill this January, however, preventing the full General Assembly from voting on it.
Regardless, the Old Dominion has made modest progress toward cannabis reform in recent years. Last summer, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two bills that ended a state law mandating that any Virginian busted with any quantity of weed would have their driver’s license suspended, even if they weren't driving at the time of the arrest. This month, lawmakers and Gov. Ralph Northam approved a historic expansion to the state's medical marijuana program, allowing any licensed doctor in the state to recommend medical cannabis for any patient at their discretion.