Pubdate: Thu, 02 Feb 2012 Source: Collegiate Times (VA Tech, Edu) Copyright: 2012 Collegiate Times Contact: http://www.collegiatetimes.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/699 Author: Josh Higgins, News Reporter DELEGATE PROPOSES STATE MARIJUANA STUDY A proposal in the Virginia General Assembly might bring something unexpected to ABC stores: marijuana. Virginia Delegate David Englin, a Democrat from House District 45, introduced House Joint Resolution No. 140, which proposes a study to examine the economic impact of legalizing marijuana and selling it in Virginia ABC stores. However, it is not the first bill of its kind to reach the floor. "It's hard for me to believe that even a study will get passed," said Karen Hult, a Virginia Tech political science professor. "I think there is going to be some concern about whether it's studying something that legislators would ever agree to, and I think many of them will say, 'No, we wouldn't.'" In a statement on his website, Englin said legalizing marijuana sales might generate state funding for education, health care, public safety and other government benefits. Additionally, he said rather than attempting to increase taxes, which he says is something the Republican majority is opposed to, he would look into revenue from marijuana sales. Hult said legislators might be concerned about the cost of the study, which the bill says will not exceed $15,040 on direct expenses. But this may be a political move by Englin, she said. "I wonder if what the representative is trying to do is raise the issue publicly because there is some concern about legalizing at least medical marijuana, as it has been done in many other states," Hult said. "Whether Virginia will ever do that legislatively is another question. I think what that representative was trying to do is try to get it out in public discussion." She said, however, that Englin's move to publicize the issue might be ineffective. "I don't think many people in the public pay much attention to the state legislature," she said. "I think that's sad, but I think it's very true. We know there aren't as many news bureaus reporting from Richmond. We know some of the TV coverage is relatively limited, and many people simply don't focus on what goes on there as much as Congress or what's going on in other parts of their lives." However, Claire Scrivani, a junior biochemistry major, is aware of the issue behind marijuana legalization. "I'm very pro-legalization," she said. "I don't see how it's any more harmful than alcohol." Marijuana legalization has been a source of contention at the state and federal level for years, yet according to ProCon.org, 16 states, along with the District of Columbia, have managed to legalize marijuana to some extent. Hult said she is uncertain of how much awareness could stem from college campuses, as many students are from out of state and do not pay attention to the happenings in the General Assembly. Advocates argue that marijuana legalization brings some benefits. Over the past few years, multiple states have legalized marijuana for medical uses, and some legislators contend that legalization boosts the state economy. Additionally, they argue that marijuana legalization decreases crime rates. However, the crime statistics are not always telling. "Would it decrease the number of people stopped for possession, for instance? Sure," Hult said. "It depends on how the bill was written." According to a New York Times article, advocates for Proposition 19, a piece of California legislation that legalizes the possession and growing of marijuana, said approving the proposition would have resulted in $1.4 billion in tax revenues and relieve some of the law enforcement involved with regulating illegal marijuana. However, defenders of status quo argue it will also cost a considerable amount of money to regulate. The issue remains controversial as state and federal laws have contradicted each other. According to the New York Times article, even though there is now some leeway with federal marijuana laws, the federal government still opposes decriminalization of it, something Jackie Bramlett disagrees with. "I'm for the legalization of it. It's a simple answer," Bramlett, a sophomore statistics major, said. "It's been proven to be less harmful than cigarettes and alcohol, and it would also create jobs." Hult said these issues remain important topics in political discussion of marijuana legalization. "I think legalization can be important for medical and health purposes," she said. "I also think it can be important for regulation and safety of what's being smoked, and it could be an important source of revenue for some states." "I understand all the concerns about it -- everything from driving under the influence of drugs, which is an increasing problem on the roads, and a range of other people are concerned about the impact of the smoke and people developing habits of various kinds," Hult said. But Hult does not see legalization happening in Virginia any time soon. "I don't think there's a chance in the Commonwealth of Virginia that it will ever be put into place," she said. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.