Nathan Hager, wtop.com
RICHMOND - It's an argument that supporters of legalizing marijuana often make: "Think of all the money it could bring in."
Now, there's an effort to try to find out exactly how much money pot sales could generate in Virginia.
"When you have respectable people in communities all across Virginia who are, you know, secretly toking up on the side, I think that there's a level of cultural acceptance to where it makes sense to decriminalize it," says Democratic Delegate David Englin.
Englin has introduced a resolution that would create a subcommittee of five delegates and three state senators, whose aim would be to study the feasibility and potential revenue impact of selling marijuana through Virginia's alcoholic beverage control stores.
"Virginia has an infrastructure set up for selling a controlled, addictive substance, and doing it in a way that underage people don't have easy access to it," Englin says.
The group would meet no more than six times by Nov. 30, and would be limited to spending $15,040 toward the study, which would be completed by the first day of the 2013 General Assembly session.
Englin insists that while this bill might be seen by some as a first step toward decriminalization, the bill would not legalize marijuana on its own.
According to the text of the resolution, the purpose of the bill would be "to study the potential revenue impact on the commonwealth of legalizing the sale and use of marijuana under certain conditions and restrictions, and selling it through Virginia's ABC stores."
The bill also wouldn't establish what those conditions and restrictions would be, though Englin suggests they'd likely include age restrictions or medical use.
Englin hasn't gathered any co-sponsors for this bill, but he says he co-sponsored efforts two years ago by longtime Delegate Harvey Morgan to allow some medicinal use of marijuana and to reduce the penalties for possession of small amounts of the drug.
Those bills were defeated, and Englin admits his bill will also be a tough sell given the current Republican leadership. Still, he says Morgan's efforts got the ball rolling for loosening the marijuana laws in the state.
"I'm trying to pick up that torch a little bit, keep the conversation going," he says. "I think it's a long term effort."
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)