WV should just legalize marijuana

Our state seal contains two images: the miner and the farmer. For almost 100 years, the miner has eclipsed the farmer in our economy. This is no longer necessary. Since legalization of marijuana in 2014, the state of Colorado has officially collected over $1 billion dollars in taxes. At that state's taxation rates that represents over $2 billion in sales for Colorado farmers. As you are aware, industrial hemp production is currently legal under permits in our state and limited medical marijuana grow permits will be issued whenever our state ends the senseless and tragic delay for the sick and dying — and farmers. However, the real benefit for West Virginia farmers is for our state to legalize recreational marijuana. The State Fair of West Virginia, the premier agriculture event of the state, began Aug. 8 in Fairlea and represents an excellent opportunity to announce your support on this issue for the benefit of West Virginia farmers and the agritourism industry.

The West Virginia Center on the Budget and Policy still has posted their excellent presentation explaining the profound impact that the legalization of recreational marijuana can have on the state's budget crisis, West Virginia farmers, and West Virginia retailers. 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 annually 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 creative strategies like the legalization of marijuana to reverse the agriculture, financial and economic collapse of our state.

Gregory A. Wingo

Lewisburg, W.Va.

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