Editor: Gov. Northam has announced that he plans to back legislation in the 2021 General Assembly session that would legalize adult use of marijuana.
This makes practical, moral and economic sense. The war on marijuana has been ineffective in reducing demand and use, while disproportionately impacting people of color. Economically speaking, the state has forfeited the opportunity to raise untold amounts of tax revenue.
Nevertheless, marijuana legalization would not be without problems. It remains illegal at the federal level, which presents banking issues for private entrepreneurs. Legalizing retail sale of pot has likewise not vanquished the illegal market in these states, as heavy taxes have kept legal pot from competing with the illegal variant.
Most importantly, however, marijuana, while seemingly less harmful than alcohol, still poses public and individual health threats. This last point should give us pause when considering whether to turn it over to for-profit entities whose overriding goal would be to increase consumption.
In that regard, Virginia already has a system for controlling the sale and distribution of an “attractive but harmful” activity: the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, or ABC.
Maintaining state control over the sale and distribution of marijuana at the wholesale level through an ABC-style government authority would seem to make the most sense from a public-health perspective (no advertising) and would raise the most revenue in the long term. The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission report confirms both points.
This is just one necessary component of legalization. For more, see the proposal at https://tinyurl.com/VAlegalpot.
Tim Dempsey, Arlington
Dempsey is a member of Our Revolution Arlington.
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