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Marc Montoni: ‘The Power of One Libertarian’

By Marc Montoni

Roy Scherer
Roy Scherer


Roy Scherer is only one man, but he accomplished some rather incredible things.  Medical marijuana was just one of Roy’s signature accomplishments: Virginia was the first state with it!

Roy convinced enough members of the Virginia General Assembly to liberalize the law in the late seventies — long before the California initiative that addressed the issue there in the nineties. Virginia’s MedMar reform passed quietly into law mostly due to Roy’s patient, quiet persuasion.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a self-executing law, and remained mostly unused.


A little-known secret is that the only doctors in Virginia who could legally suggest it without the DEA raiding their house, shooting their kids and dog, and revoking their medical license, were those at the V.A. hospitals.  If I recall, most of the couple of dozen legal federal users of the late seventies and eighties were residents of Virginia, and, several of them were VA patients.

Some cracks in the wall eventually appeared in the rest of the country: The federal government finally said in 2010 that patients treated at Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics will be able to use medical marijuana in the then-14 states where had been legalized.  Read more about this here.

Another example of Roy’s handiwork is the historically-lenient Virginia possession law (under, again going from memory, 1/4 ounce is (or was) a rather cheap misdemeanor fine, rather than a jail-able offense).

And Roy has been exceptionally successful in stopping bad legislation in committees by pointing out flaws even the sponsors had to agree with.

Yes, more would get done with numbers, but no one should be quick to dismiss the incredible success Roy has had as a single lobbyist.  So many times it can be just a matter of remembering that lawmakers are human (or at least resemble them), and having an interested citizen around to do a “second reading” from a hands-off starting point often shows legislators where their ideas smash up against reality.

It often takes only takes one or two Libertarians in the right place at the right time to get what can be huge reforms enacted.  For instance, the only time in U.S. history that a state income tax was abolished happened to coincide with the terms of just two Libertarian Party legislators — Dick Randolph and Ken Fanning — in the Alaska state legislature.  It was the Libertarians who introduced the repeal bill, and persuaded their 18th century holdout political opponents to support it.

[NOTE: This article was first published in Old Dominion Liberty Letter Issue #39 on Monday, 26 July 2010.  Old Dominion Liberty Letter was an email newsletter that was periodically sent to Libertarian Party members and prospects in Virginia.  This author served as the editor of the publication for most of its run.  Article is also available on the author’s personal blog.]
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Written by Marc Montoni <>, 2010.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.Creative Commons License


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