Report details impact of marijuana legalization in Virginia


Montana Advanced Caregivers owner Richard Abromeit talks about different strains of marijuana stored in a refrigerator at the Billings, Mont., medical marijuana dispensary on Nov. 11, 2020. Recreational marijuana initiatives passed in four states this year, from liberal New Jersey to conservative Montana and South Dakota. The results prove how broadly accepted marijuana has become throughout the country and across party lines. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The group tasked with outlining how Virginia would implement marijuana legalization discussed creating a state-run agency, similar to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, giving the commonwealth a monopoly on the retail sale of cannabis, according to a report made public Monday.

The possibility of having a standalone agency to oversee legal marijuana sales and licenses was among one of the points presented in a 482-page report from the Virginia Marijuana Legalization Work Group, which was assembled to study legalization at the request of state lawmakers as the commonwealth was passing its decriminalization bill.

The group was formed to dive into the impact of legalization and provide options for a potential path forward. It is made up of top officials in state agencies and Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, law enforcement and advocacy group leaders.

The work group was divided into three subgroups: Fiscal and Structural; Legal and Regulatory; Health Impacts.

“We will advance new laws to make sure that our Commonwealth legalizes marijuana the right way,” Northam said in a statement Monday. “Virginia has studied the experience of other states and this report lays out a path forward that leads with social equity, public health, and public safety.”

Two weeks ago, the governor expressed support for legalization as a Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) study found that sales could bring in an excess of $300 million in tax revenue and create 11,000 new jobs. While a legal marijuana industry in Virginia is estimated to bring in hundreds of millions in annual tax revenue, the group noted that those figures rely on assumptions that could change as the process of legalization moves forward.

“A legal adult-use marijuana industry could be worth $698 million to $1.2 billion annually in economic activity and up to $274 million in tax revenues per year at industry maturation,” the group writes in the report’s summary. “However, there are two caveats. First, this analysis relies on a number of assumptions, many of which could change once Virginia actually moves forward with a legalization program. Additionally, it will likely take at least five years for the industry itself to mature, which adds greater uncertainty.”

Click here to read the full report, released Monday, Nov. 30, 2020

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