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As Congress debates following states in legalizing marijuana, youth use is up



WASHINGTON – As congressional Democrats press for federal legalization of marijuana and more states continue to legalize it, an increasing number of college-age adults across the United States are ditching liquor stores and heading to dispensaries, a new study shows.

Roughly 44% of college students consumed marijuana in 2020, a jump from 38% in 2015, according to a July survey by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.

The survey, which has been tracking alcohol and drug consumption of Americans aged 19-60 since 1980, questioned nearly 1,600 young adults aged 19-22 from March to November of 2020. This age range showed the greatest changes in cannabis and alcohol use of all the groups studied.

By contrast, among 45-60-year-olds, 10-12% reported marijuana use in 2020, a decrease from 12-15% in 2015.

WASHINGTON – Marijuana and already-rolled joints. The use of the drug among young people is up, as federal lawmakers debate following many states in legalizing it. (Tom Hausman/Capital News Service)


“There may be multiple reasons for these findings, including increased social acceptance of marijuana use and decreased criminal justice-related treatment admissions,” Nora Volkow, director of NIDA, told Capital News Service. “Additional research is required to build an evidence base and untangle the multiple factors that affect cannabis use outcomes.”

The increase in marijuana use among young Americans coincided with a decrease in alcohol consumption. Fifty-six percent of the study’s subjects reported drinking alcohol in 2020, compared to 62% the year before.

Likewise, binge drinking hit an all-time low in the most recent study, dipping eight points in a year to 24%.

“While binge drinking has been gradually declining among college students for the past few decades, this is a new historic low,” Dr.  John Schulenberg, a University of Michigan psychology professor and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.

The trend toward higher marijuana consumption comes at a time when the legalization of the drug is accelerating among the states: voters in Arizona, Montana, South Dakota and New Jersey approved marijuana legalization measures in the 2020 elections.

In total, 33 states – including Maryland – plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have legalized marijuana for medicinal use. A total of 19 states and the District of Columbia also have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

On the federal level, three Democratic senators want to legalize cannabis nationwide. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, and Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Cory Booker of New Jersey, co-sponsored a bill they introduced in July to do just that.

“Cannabis prohibition, a key pillar of the failed War on Drugs, has caused substantial harm to our communities and small businesses, and especially for communities of color,” Wyden said in a statement. “It’s as simple as this: Senators Booker, Schumer, and I want to bring common sense to the federal government, end prohibition and restore the lives of those hurt most and set them up for an opportunity.”

The lawmakers’ bill, called the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and would give states the right to regulate the drug as they now regulate alcohol.

“Not only will this legislation remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances,” Schumer said in a statement. “But it will also help fix our criminal justice system, ensure restorative justice, protect public health, and implement responsible taxes and regulations.

The House in December passed legislation decriminalizing marijuana, but the measure died in the Senate. Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, and five other House Democrats reintroduced the bill in May. Nadler is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

Pointing to state legalization efforts, Nadler said: “Our federal laws must keep up with this pace.”

But opponents insist cannabis use shouldn’t be encouraged by the government.

“Drug use is an epidemic in this country,” Scott Chipman, vice president of Americans Against Legalizing Marijuana, told CNS. “We need to ask why and address the underlying causes. Certainly, normalizing drug use and commercializing marijuana exacerbates the drug use epidemic.”

The University of Michigan survey found that cannabis use was highest in states in the West and Northeast. Fourteen of the 20 states in those two regions have legalized the drug for recreational use.

“Often, as humans, we want to do things that we perceive to be normative – to have our actions perceived as positive and normal within our social groups and society,” Volkow said. “So, as drugs like marijuana… are advertised to have potential therapeutic effects and are perceived as socially acceptable, that may lead people to be more likely to want to take them.”

The nation’s attitude towards marijuana the drug has become more favorable in recent years.

A November 2020 Gallup poll showed that 68% of Americans support marijuana legalization, including almost half of Republicans.

“For decades, our federal government has waged a War on Drugs that has unfairly impacted low-income communities and communities of color,” Booker said in a statement. “While red and blue states across the country continue to legalize marijuana, the federal government continues to lag woefully behind. It is time for Congress to end the federal marijuana prohibition and reinvest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.”

Capital News Service

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New building on gifted land will bring trades classes to the Fauquier Campus



Construction of a new building dedicated to the skilled trades on the Fauquier Campus is expected to begin in February and be open for classes in fall 2022.

This opportunity to build a facility dedicated to trades education is thanks to a gift of 60 acres adjacent to campus from Fauquier County to the LFCC Educational Foundation. The college has been leasing space for trades instruction at Vint Hill, but that site is not ideal for those needs, and the lease expires in 2022.

With the new trades building, the college will be able to offer trades classes for the first time on the Fauquier Campus and even begin a new carpentry program. Other programs planned for the new 8,000-square-foot pre-engineered metal building include electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and heavy equipment operator.

“Providing career training and apprenticeships in the trades requires a custom-designed facility – we need flexible labs for hands-on learning, hard floors, high ceilings, state-of-the-art ventilation systems, multiple outlets and drop cords to accommodate the industrial and commercial training equipment, and more,” said Jeanian Clark, vice president of Workforce Solutions and Continuing Education. “That’s why this new building is such exciting news. And it couldn’t come at a better time. With the state’s investment in the G3, FastForward, and Re-Employing Virginians (REV) initiatives, enrolling in skilled-trades programs and high-demand career pathways has never been more affordable for students. Our area businesses and industries need our trades graduates.”

In addition to expanding trade offerings, the new facility will allow the college to explore partnerships with Fauquier County and Rappahannock County schools for potential new ventures, such as a trades academy.

“The expansion of trades programs on the Fauquier Campus is good news for the home construction industry,” said LFCC Foundation Board Member Joel Barkman, who is founder and president/CEO of Golden Rule Builders in Catlett. “By investing in the infrastructure to develop the next generation of building trade professionals, LFCC is a valuable partner in addressing the skilled labor shortage. I’m proud to support the college.”

The foundation, which will own the building and lease it to the college, has established the Building the Future Fund with a fundraising goal of $1.5 million. The money raised will go towards fully equipping the site; bringing in experienced instructors; expanding instruction to more fields within career and technical education, such as welding; offering scholarships, and more. There are naming opportunities for the building itself, as well as spaces inside.

For more information or to donate to the Building the Future Fund, contact Tami O’Brien, development officer, at 540-351-1046 or

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Expansion of Smith Hall on Middletown Campus will allow for additional mechatronics programming



The expansion of Alson H. Smith Hall on LFCC’s Middletown Campus will allow Workforce Solutions to be able to expand its high-demand program in advanced manufacturing.

Workforce Solutions’ mechatronics program teaches students – and those already in the workforce and looking to upskill – how to operate and maintain the smart technology used in area manufacturing operations. Through hands-on learning, they will become qualified to work as electromechanical technicians, production technicians and industrial maintenance technicians.

“The Middletown Campus is situated in a huge manufacturing corridor, and we cannot satisfy industry’s need for a workforce skilled in advanced manufacturing fast enough,” Workforce Solutions and Continuing Education Vice President Jeanian Clark said. “It’s an equipment-intensive program. To build the full program out to the three levels of certified training our employers deserve, we needed additional space.”

That is why construction of a 3,500-square-foot addition to Smith Hall began in late summer. The project is expected to be finished by May, with Level 2 Mechatronics classes beginning on site in fall 2022.

Because mechatronics equipment is very sensitive to dust, temperature, and vibration, Workforce Solutions moved it the Emil & Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center in Winchester to protect it and keep classes running. Winchester Public Schools use the center for health sciences, professional skills and advanced technologies academies. Three labs in the center are dedicated to LFCC classes and feature glass walls.

“When students walk by, they’re seeing this very sophisticated, state-of-the-art equipment which we hope inspires them,” said Clark. “What’s cool about mechatronics class is it’s all the sleek robotics and controls. It’s impressive equipment. We hope that will drive future interest in these students for these great careers with our local industries.”

Level 1 Mechatronics will be taught in the Shihadeh Center through May, she said.

“We are the very first workforce program statewide that has generated enough program revenue to invest in a capital facilities project,” Clark said. “Any of the profits we generated over and above paying the costs of the program, we’ve been able to save so we could reinvest in the programs our regional workforce demands.”

In addition to the Smith Hall expansion, funds are being reinvested in expanding technical space at LFCC’s Fauquier Campus.

The Level 1 mechatronics program currently offered by Workforce Solutions offers six industry credentials that students can complete in a year. Skills gained include understanding and safely operating and maintaining machines and processes, troubleshooting and addressing common issues in electromechanical systems, performing basic robot programming and operation, and operating and maintaining fluid power systems.

“Our classes are designed to fit a working student’s schedule,” Clark said.

The starting salary for someone who has completed Level 1 Mechatronics is about $40,000. After completing Level 2 mechatronics, a technician can expect to earn $60,000-$70,000, according to Clark. Those earning a Level 3 can expect an annual salary of $70,000-$90,000.

“There is also an opportunity for our mechatronics students to lattice with the credit side of the college to put them on the pathway for an engineering degree,” Clark said.

Even with the work going on at Smith Hall, Workforce Solutions has been able to continue to offer other trades programs in the space, including a four-level electrical program, as well as full HVAC and heavy-equipment operator programs. All of these trades programs, including mechatronics, are eligible for FastForward and G3 funding, making them very affordable for students and employers wishing to enroll their workers.

Learn more about the mechatronics program at For more information about the G3 program – which provides last-dollar tuition for eligible students – visit

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LFCC students and staff share their diverse cultures over two days of Go Global events



The various cultures and histories of our students were shared and celebrated this week as part of LFCC’s Go Global events.

LFCC has hosted global awareness days for many years, but the popular celebration was completely online last year due to the pandemic. On Wednesday, the Fauquier Campus hosted “Go Global:  A Taste of Diversity,” with food and information shared from South Korea, Venezuela and Bangladesh, as well as a presentation by Professor Jerome “Butch” Austin on the conflict in Myanmar.

On Thursday, the Middletown Campus held “Go Global:  Faces & Foods Around the World,” with information, along with some food, from various countries, including China, Ecuador, El Salvador, India, Holland, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam. Numerous flags were displayed on both campuses.

“It’s great to be able to bring this very important, very cherished event back to campus this year,” said Chris Lambert, coordinator of student life and engagement. “Even though we are very much still mid-pandemic, we made this work. Hosting this event at both our Fauquier and Middletown campuses as part of a two-day event was not only safe, but a great way to bring our diverse community together in celebrating our differences as one college.”

Jaehee Lee, a fine arts student, shared Korean cookies and created an exhibit on South Korea, focusing on K-pop, architecture, traditional clothing, drama and the Korean alphabet.

“I wanted to introduce more about Korea,” she said.

Dania Benitez’s parents are from El Salvador, and she had a display on the Central American nation.

“I wanted to represent my culture and show it to other people, like our tourist spots, what food we have,” she said. “I’m representing my parents’ country from my perspective.”

Dr. Soyoung Burke, LFCC’s ESL program coordinator, was at both Go Global events, sharing Korean food.

“These types of events are very important,” she said. “Our college’s mission includes diversity, and this is at the core of that.”

Israt Jahan was serving a rice dish from her native Bangladesh.

“I am here because I wanted to experience cultures from around the world.”

Professor Austin shared videos, images and information surrounding the conflict going on in Myanmar following a brief period of democratic experimentation. His wife is from the Asian country.

“I wanted to make people aware of what is going on,” Professor Austin explained. “There are things the U.S. can do to help. Awareness is the very first thing.”

He also wants students to not take their freedoms for granted.

Professor Austin’s biology student, Sierra Miller, was one of the students who signed up to find out how they can help support the Myanmar people’s struggle for freedom.

“I joined the military in 2005 – I was 17 – and if there’s one thing I hate it, it’s a dictatorship,” she said. “I was a drill instructor in the Marine Corps. If I can help anybody in another country fight a dictator, I will.”

Learn more about LFCC’s Go Global events at

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Port moves ahead with rail capacity expansion at NIT as board approves $61M construction bid



The Port of Virginia® is embarking on an expansion of its double-stack, on-dock rail operation that when complete will allow the port to handle 1.1 million containers a year via rail.

The process of doubling the size of the Central Rail Yard at Norfolk International Terminals moved ahead Tuesday when the Virginia Port Authority (VPA) Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the project’s $61.5 million construction bid. The work will be done by Allan Myers Virginia Inc., the same company that handled the optimization projects at NIT and Virginia International Gateway (VIG).

 Central Rail Yard. Photo / Virginia Port Authority 

Additionally, the VPA board approved moving forward on an $18 million contract with Konecranes for up to three cantilever rail-mounted gantry cranes and their support systems.

When complete, NIT’s Central Rail Yard will be able to accommodate 610,000 annual container lifts; current lift capacity is 350,000 at NIT and 480,000 at VIG. The construction encompasses demolition, pavement work, utilities infrastructure and installation of new railroad track. The work begins in February 2022 and will be complete in late 2023.

The completion of the rail expansion project is timed to support opening of the port’s deeper and wider commercial ship channel. The dredge work to take Virginia’s channel depth to 55 feet is underway and scheduled for completion in mid-to-late 2024 – the wider channel will make way for safe, two-way traffic of ultra-large container vessels.

“In a little more than two years The Port of Virginia will be served by the deepest and widest ship channel anywhere on the US East Coast,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the VPA. “Pairing that channel depth with modern terminals and significant rail capacity is going to attract big ships and more cargo volume. We are going to need the rail capacity to support the additional cargo we’ll be getting from this shift of big vessels to Virginia.”

The project will also support further optimization of NIT as the port begins its preliminary planning for expanding the container capacity at the terminal’s North Berth. That project, when complete, will create the throughput capacity to handle 630,000 containers annually. The design work is scheduled for completion by the end of 2022 with construction to begin in the spring of 2023.

“We have a clear roadmap for investment to stay ahead of the curve,” Edwards said. “These projects will help meet the needs of our customers and the cargo owners while giving us the capacity and capability to be the premiere US East Coast destination for rail cargo and big ships.”

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Collaborative program training students in needed skills brings state award to LFCC Workforce Solutions and community partners



LFCC Workforce Solutions, along with Virginia Career Works and Outlier Realty Capital, recently received a 2021 Chancellor’s Award for Workforce Development during the Hire Education Conference. The partners were awarded the Outstanding Business Partnership distinction for a novel initiative that provided a six-week building maintenance technician training program to six disadvantaged students ages 18-24.

The program, which was held last summer, provided the students with classes, internships – including one at the college – a community service project, job interviews and even a graduation ceremony.

It grew out of a workforce gap that has arisen in the community – Outlier was in great need of building maintenance technicians for its apartments in Winchester and reached out to Virginia Career Works for help. VCW then turned to Workforce Solutions.

“We were able to hire a very talented instructor and develop a curriculum that included facility maintenance and OSHA classes,” LFCC Workforce Solutions corporate training sales manager Larry Baker said. “In addition to seven day-long classes, students interned at various locations applying what they’d learned and getting their hands dirty over 18 days.”

Classes were held at a Winchester leasing office, and the students interned at LFCC, Common Living, Winchester House Apartments and Our Health Inc.

“[Our intern] had a willingness to want to learn,” Dan Rose, director of operations for Our Health, said of his organization’s intern. “She was a self-starter. I was just beyond impressed with her.”

Since the graduation in July, two of the six graduates are working as building maintenance technicians, one is working at a distribution center, one is employed with a community organization, and the remaining two are attending college, including one who is enrolled in Workforce Solutions’ electrical apprenticeship program.

“This program gave these youth the confidence to pursue a meaningful occupation and feel part of the community,” Bonnie Zampino, Virginia Career Works Winchester Center Workforce Services director, says in a spotlight video shown during the virtual conference. “All of these students succeeded in this program, and this award is because of them.”

Baker added, “This is an innovative community collaboration that could become a model moving forward in other skilled areas to help individuals who have limited educational funds start a fulfilling career path while also helping employers who are in great need of a skilled workforce.”

Learn more about LFCC Workforce Solutions at, or by calling 540-868-7021.

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Update: VSP investigating crash involving school bus and train in Rockingham County



Virginia State Police Trooper S. Craig is investigating a crash involving a school bus and a train in Rockingham County. The crash occurred November 17, 2021, at 3:30 p.m. along Route 649 (Island Ford Rd) near the intersection of Route 340 (S. E. Side Hwy).

A Rockingham County Public School bus was traveling east on Rt. 649 when it stopped at a stop sign, with the rear of the bus partially hanging over the nearby train tracks. The railroad crossing arms descended and the rear of the bus was struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train. The train was unable to stop in time.

The driver of the bus, James A. Kite, 70, of Elkton, Va., was not injured in the crash. Kite was wearing a seatbelt.

Four children on the bus suffered minor injuries in the crash and were transported to Sentara RMH for treatment. A total of 16 children were on the bus at the time of the crash.

The conductor and engineer were the only occupants on the train. Neither were injured in the crash.

Kite was charged with failure to obey a traffic control device/railroad crossing sign.

Photos courtesy of the Virginia State Police

The crash remains under investigation.

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