I am writing to let you know that West Virginians are profoundly disappointed in your performance to date. All of you were elected on the promise of change for West Virginia. In the words of Candidate Justice: “If you are tired of being 50th, vote for me!” So far this legislative session has been nothing but politics as usual and in the worst way with pandering to the extractive industries and the wealthy donors, and idiotic bills that will not pass judicial review. The tax and budget proposals so far have been little more than right-wing fantasies with no basis in the realities faced by the WV citizenry.
As an advocate of full legalization of marijuana, I maintain a Facebook page called Marijuana & WV. It is a fact-based information source and discussion group for West Virginians both for and against legalization. I invite you to drop by and learn the facts on marijuana and eliminate your ignorance on the subject, and read the thoughts of your fellow mountaineers on it. Quite frankly, the majority of the citizenry are begging you to allow us to contribute $194 million towards the budget crisis. We are also asking the following of you:
- Inject $271 million of agriculture revenue into the hands of West Virginia farmers.
- Allow 8,352 West Virginians to be employed in the cannabis industry and create 5,940 new jobs in complementary industries such as tourism.
- Quit wasting $17.4 million per annum on marijuana arrests.
- Decrease opioid overdoses by 24.8%, reduce overall opioid use by 64%, lower opioid abuse by 50%, and stop 182 of your fellow citizens from dying this year.
- Enable 75% of opiate addicts to end their habit and provide a safer and more effective medical alternative to deadly prescription drugs.
And guess what? It is free. No increased taxes on West Virginians, no bond issues, no start-up costs, and no cannibalization of existing revenues. So why does medical marijuana, which has been legalized in twenty-six states, even need debate? Why are we looking to expand the budget hole from $600 million to $1.2 billion and place horrendously regressive consumption taxes on the impoverished citizenry instead of giving them the opportunities that eight other states and 20% of Americans are now enjoying? Because you have failed to see that the cannabis industry will rapidly exceed the revenues and political donations of both the extractive industries and the pharmaceutical lobby. It is already happening in Colorado in less than half a decade. The longer you wait and drag your feet the less dramatic the economic stimulus will be for our State.
As I have said previously, to deny suffering individuals the potential relief of medical marijuana is a sad statement on our government’s treatment of our fellow mountaineers especially among the elderly and innocent. To deny government services, jobs, and an education to West Virginians due to a budgetary crisis and a refusal to legalize recreational marijuana is just as bad and a failure in governance. Frankly, the populace has no faith in you. To paraphrase the most common sentiment on my page, “They will never pass it because they never do anything until it is too late. We will always be last.”
In the US military, they have a slogan: “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way!” All of you need to heed this wisdom and stop politicking. It is time to begin utilizing creative strategies like the legalization of marijuana to reverse the economic collapse of our State. I hope that all of you will join us on Mar. 27 for Hemp Day in the Rotunda to learn more about solutions for the benefit of all West Virginians and our future generations.
Gregory A. Wingo