Can Legal Weed Rescue West Virginia?

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When a bill was introduced in West Virginia to legalize medical marijuana this past spring, MMJ patients were pleased and so were some Republican politicians who are not normally known for such displays of support.

“I think we all know someone who has benefited from some application of marijuana or certainly could benefit based on the research that’s available today,” said John Shott, West Virginia’s Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Another governmental organization that also perked up its collective ears was the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

A report issued by the center listed the advantages of decriminalized marijuana that could have far reaching benefits for a state that could use some help.

“If marijuana was legalized and taxed in West Virginia at a rate of 25 percent of its wholesale price the state could collect an estimated $45 million annually upon full implementation,” the report stated. “If 10 percent of marijuana users who live within a 200-mile radius of West Virginia came to the state to purchase marijuana, the state could collect an estimated $194 million.”

This amount would be enough to eliminate West Virginia’s projected deficit and create a $183 million surplus, according to the report, and would eliminate the need to cut money from higher education and Medicaid.

The report also mentioned saving money spent enforcing the state’s marijuana laws—$17 million in 2010—which has surely grown since then.

Politicians and business people are looking at what other states have done with their lucrative weed industries in terms of creating jobs, which West Virginia also sorely needs.

While West Virginia is the country’s second largest coal-produce after Wyoming, coal exports declined 40 percent in 2013 and are expected to continue to drop, according to a WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research report released this summer.

West Virginia’s number one employer for years has been Walmart, with coal and mining companies falling way down the list of employers in this state of 1.8 million people.

For the fourth year running, West Virginia has ranked last in the Gallup Economic Index. It is also among the bottom five states, for the last six years running, in CNBC’s “Top States for Business.”

Another issue… the opioid crisis.

West Virginia has been called “ground zero” in the nation’s worst drug crises with the highest rate per capita of overdose deaths—a statistic that is growing rather than shrinking.

Currently, the medical marijuana program in West Virginia is extremely limited—no herbal cannabis, only cannabis-infused preparations in the forms of pills, oils, topicals, patches or tinctures, etc.—and still hovers in a transitional state.

But a light at the end of the tunnel became ever so slightly visible when local politicians stopped moralizing and started looking at what marijuana could do for a state that is in dire need.

To answer the question “can legal weed rescue West Virginia?”

The answer seems to be yes, but only if the Mountain State will let it.

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