One of the most progressive marijuana resolutions in the nation was recently introduced in the 2012 Virginia General Assembly session.
Sponsored by Del. David Englin, D-Alexandria, HJ 140 would establish a subcommittee to study the revenue impact of legalizing and selling marijuana through Virginia ABC stores.
Virginia’s state-run liquor stores generated $121million in profits last year. How much revenue would legalizing marijuana generate? Who stands to lose and who stands to gain? These are questions worth answering.
Crunching the numbers is easily done. Legalizing marijuana would generate at least $208 million in net revenue annually.
That’s a conservative estimate. It’s based on 6.5 percent of Virginia adults admitting to past-month use in the most recent federal survey.
That amounts to 520,000 regular users out of an 8million population. Assumptions include negligible start-up costs for existing ABC stores, no advertising, no out-of-state sales and users generating an average $400 in revenue. Total revenue could be much higher.
Government surveys undercount illicit drug use; many people won’t admit to criminal behavior.
ABC store pricing could be set based on what the market will bear, which is quite a lot for marijuana.
Top quality marijuana costs upward of $350 an ounce. If legal, marijuana would be no more valuable than any other agricultural commodity. Imagine paying $350 for a tomato.
Mexican drug cartels and indoor domestic growers could not compete with Virginia farmers.
ABC stores would need to price marijuana low enough to undercut cartels and discourage home cultivation, but high enough to generate revenue.
Legislators eager to maximize revenue cannot count on increased marijuana use. There is no correlation between criminal penalties and rates of use.
Dutch rates of marijuana use are half U.S. rates, despite legal marijuana in the Netherlands.
Baby boomers who put the marijuana pipe down years ago might pick it up again. Kids would find it harder to obtain.
Marijuana prohibition has created a youth-oriented black market. Unlike Virginia ABC stores, illegal drug dealers don’t ID for age.
Drug dealers are the big losers under legalization. Taxing and regulating marijuana would render the drug war obsolete.
As long as marijuana distribution is controlled by organized crime, consumers will come into contact with hard drugs like meth, coc*aine and her*oin.
This “gateway” is a direct result of marijuana prohibition. Taxpayers are the big winners. Add increased public safety to the $208million revenue boost.
At present, 6 percent of all Virginia arrests are for marijuana offenses.
Police time spent arresting marijuana offenders is police time not spent arresting child molesters, rapists and murderers.
Drug warriors are quick to point out that the illegal marijuana trade is linked to violence.
Like the gateway effect, this violence is a result of marijuana prohibition.
Almost 50,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s drug wars over the last five years.
With alcohol prohibition repealed, liquor suppliers no longer wage violent turf battles.
While marijuana prohibition is equally deadly, the plant itself is relatively harmless. Unlike alcohol, marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no evidence that marijuana harms lung function.
If health outcomes determined drug laws instead of cultural norms, marijuana would be legal.
Decades after government anti-marijuana propaganda first piqued interest in an American public that had never heard of marijuana, much less smoked it, marijuana is officially mainstream.
One-third of Virginia residents ages 18 to 25 used marijuana in the past year. Marijuana prohibition is the epitome of government failure.
Virginia legislators need to hear from their constituents.
Criminalizing citizens who prefer marijuana to martinis is not an appropriate role for government. If the people lead, politicians will follow.