Open letter to WV Agriculture Commissioner

Dear Commissioner Helmick:
I am writing to thank you for your wonderful speech in favor of local production and consumption of agricultural products at the West Virginia State Democratic Party Convention. It is one of the principal reasons that I chose to vote in favor of the amendment for the legalization of medical, recreational, and industrial cannabis which was passed and is part of the 2016 West Virginia State Democratic Party Platform (Section C-3). As you are well aware, industrial hemp production is currently legal under special permits in the state; however, the real benefit for West Virginia farmers and tourism industry is for us to be the first movers in the eastern United States to legalize recreational marijuana. The West Virginia State Fair, the premier agriculture event of the State, begins this week in Fairlea and represents an excellent opportunity to announce your support for this plank in the platform for the benefit of West Virginia farmers and the agritourism industry.
The WV Center on the Budget and Policy has an excellent 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, West Virginia farmers, and West Virginia retailers. Being located within 250-mile radius of a significant amount of the eastern population of the United States, and given the Federal prohibition on the transportation of cannabis across state lines, marijuana consumed in West Virginia 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 percent 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 percent retail markup, 30 percent wholesale markup – $271 million in agricultural revenues for West Virginia 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.
It is time to begin utilizing the reforms such as this one in our platform to register new voters, to expand the party membership, to commit candidates to the platform, and to reverse the collapse of our Party and our State. It is time to get to work for victory in November!
Sincerely,
Gregg Wingo
Third Congressional District
Delegate from Greenbrier County

 

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