CHARLESTON – Delegate. Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) has introduced a bill in the special session that would legalize marijuana in West Virginia.
“We are in a special session because of our financial crisis,” Pushkin said. “We have seen a downturn in coal and low (natural) gas prices. We’ve cut a lot of taxes over the past few years.”
The Mountain State needs some kind of revenue producer and Pushkin and others think that legal cannabis might just be the answer.
“We need to discuss it,” Pushkin said. “We need to put all of the options on the table.”
“Several states have already done it and some states are moving on it,” the delegate added. He said that some states that border W.Va. are also looking at legalizing pot.
Pushkin stated, “Pennsylvania I believe signed medical marijuana the other day, and Ohio is well on their way to doing the same thing.”
One alternative would be to legalize medical marijuana. Tax revenues from this could be a windfall for a state that is in dire need of revenue.
“We need to bring it up for discussion and hear both sides,” Pushkin added. He thinks the bill has some support, even though some legislators have not openly or verbally talked about it.
The bill would decriminalize and permit personal use, growth and possession of certain amounts of marijuana by persons over the age of 21.
Delegates Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio), Bill Flanigan (R-Monongalia), Mike Folk (R-Berkeley) and Pat McGeehan (R-Hancock) also signed the bill.
Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Washington, D.C. have recently legalized marijuana for recreational use. Several other states have legalized both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.
Pushkin said that most people know that marijuana has long been the No. 1 cash crop in the state. The climate in Appalachia is perfect for farming marijuana, much like that of Northern California. “There is a lot of flat land on abandoned mine sites that would be great sites for growing marijuana,” he added.
Pushkin said Colorado has been successful with a similar bill. He said that this would also produce a number of jobs. “Colorado is not having these kind of economic problems,” he stressed.
The Kanawha County delegate knows that the bill is a long-shot, especially in the special session. But he hopes that there will at least be some discussion.
“We don’t need to have tax increases on hard-working people and we don’t need to make any more drastic cuts to balance the budget,” Pushkin said.
Pushkin thinks that legalizing marijuana could help solve the state’s severe budget crisis and help stimulate a sagging economy.
(Kyle Lovern is the Managing Editor for the Civitas Media Mountain District including the Williamson Daily News and Logan Banner. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)