Pubdate: Thu, 02 Feb 2012
Source: Collegiate Times (VA Tech,  Edu)
Copyright: 2012 Collegiate Times
Author: Josh Higgins, News Reporter 


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

"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

"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

"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, 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

"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

"I don't think there's a chance in the Commonwealth of Virginia that
it will ever be put into place," she said. 
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