Legalizing pot could bring Virginia $300 million in tax revenue

Virginia could net more than $300 million per year in tax revenue if the state were to legalize recreational marijuana, according to a report released Monday by Virginia’s legislative watchdog agency.

“We were directed to look at how Virginia could legalize marijuana and create a commercial market, but we were not asked to look at if that should be done,” said Mark Gribbin, an analyst with the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Commission.

“We conducted over 100 interviews, looked at other legalized states’ laws and regulations and reviewed over 200 academic journal articles.”

According to the report, it would take five years to reach that $300 million mark. It determined that legalizing marijuana could lead to the creation of more than 11,000 jobs and reduce arrests in the state by 84%, particularly among Black residents.

“Virginia could use tax revenue from marijuana sales to further existing community assistance programs,” said Gribbin.

Gribbin noted, though, that it would not be quick or cheap for Virginia to set up a regulatory system: “Establishing a commercial market could take more than two years and cost $8-20 million up front.”

On July 1, 2020, a law decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana took effect in Virginia, but some including Gov. Ralph Northam have called for the state to go further and fully legalize the drug.

Northam said Monday he plans to propose legislation on the matter when the Virginia General Assembly convenes in January, saying he wants a responsible approach that promotes racial equity and preserves youth safety.

If he gets his way, Virginia would become the first Southern state to make the drug legal for recreational use.

Northam acknowledged the process could take years, but he said that he’s confident the drug will eventually be legal for personal use.

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Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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