Dear WV Democratic Candidates:
I am writing to thank you for your desire to serve the State of West Virginia and to ask your help in furthering the future of our state. I am writing you concerning the amendment for the legalization of medical, recreational, and industrial cannabis which was passed and is part of the 2016 WV State Democratic Party Platform (Section C-3). Industrial hemp production is currently legal under special permits in the state, however, the real benefit for WV is for us to be the first mover in the eastern United States to legalize recreational marijuana and your support would be a tremendous step forward for fiscal responsibility, public health, and sustaining WV’s reputation as the Colorado of the East.
One of the greatest concerns voiced by opponents of legalization of marijuana is the impact on the youth of our State. However, the newly released study on this subject by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which was published in Scientific American (www.scientificamerican.com/article/colorado-s-teen-marijuana-usage-dips-after-legalization/), found these concerns without merit. In fact, juvenile marijuana use has declined below the national average in Colorado since legalization. Other independent studies have also found legalization lowers the demand for painkillers in those states, thereby, reducing possible access to opioids, an issue critical to our State.
The WV Center on the Budget and Policy has a full report and a presentation on their website (www.wvpolicy.org/how-legalizing-marijuana-could-impact-west-virginia) explaining the profound impact that the legalization of recreation, medical, and industrial marijuana can have on the State’s budget crisis. As per the WV Chamber of Commerce our state is located within a 500-mile radius of over 50 percent of the population of the United States and given the Federal prohibition on the transportation of cannabis across state lines, marijuana consumed in WV must be produced in state and the product as demonstrated in Colorado and Washington State will act as a tremendous tourist draw. At taxation levels of 25% per ounce, the estimated state tax revenues would amount to $194 million and, therefore, represents $776 million in retail sales, and – utilizing conventional supplier models of 50% retail markup, 30% wholesale markup – $271 million in agricultural revenues for WV farmers. It is not clear how much revenue will be generated from hotels, restaurants, and destinations catering to the needs of out-of-state visitors but what we do know is that every year since Colorado’s legalization that their cannabis tourism has grown and that state in 2014 had 71.3 million visitors and tourism revenue of $18.6 billion. In comparison, West Virginia in 2014 had $4.5 billion in revenues. And we know from the Drug Policy Alliance six-month status report on Colorado (http://www.drugpolicy.org/colorado-six-month-status-report) that positive changes are immediate and rapid including winning over the original opponents and established politicians of their state – many of who are now its strongest supporters.
Please join all three WV Democratic Congressional candidates: Matt Detch, Mike Manypenny, and Mark Hunt in supporting this plank of our Party. It is time to begin utilizing the reforms such as this one in our platform for the final push to register new voters, to expand the party membership, and to reverse the collapse of our Party and our State. It is time for victory in November! Sincerely,