West Virginia Republican Governor Jim Justice said at a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday that he was open to relaxing his position on legalizing recreational marijuana in the state. The judiciary spoke up during an online meeting with voters when he was promoting his proposal to abolish state income tax.
While at town hall, Justice was asked by a participant if he supported the full legalization and taxation of marijuana in West Virginia to create a new source of income.
“Not me,” said Justice, quickly adding, “but I weaken in this position.”
The governor said he had heard from reputable sources that legalizing adult cannabis had social benefits and said, “The medical community tells me that recreational marijuana legalization has reduced their drug problems.”
He also noted that while he has not yet received all of the information needed to change his personal mind on legalizing recreational marijuana, he acknowledged that reform seems inevitable. He also stated that he would agree if the state parliament took the lead on the matter.
“I’m not trained enough to be a really good judgment, but I believe the wave is coming up in all of our states,” he continued. “If our House and Senate stand behind these efforts and legalize marijuana, I would, too.”
Republicans lead drive to Nix state income tax
The judiciary and Republican lawmakers are weighing options to implement a proposal to abolish the state tax on personal income, which would result in an estimated loss of $ 2 billion in revenue per year. A mix of cuts in government services, increases in other taxes, and new sources of funding are being considered to make up the difference.
Earlier last month, Paul Espinosa, whip of the house majority, sent an informal poll to his Republican counterparts in the legislature to gauge their support against a number of proposals to help meet the resulting budget deficit. Legislators have been asked to consider a list of a dozen options, including cuts to college and social programs, increasing state sales taxes, new taxes on professional services, and increasing new revenues through legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana.
Espinosa said any suggestion that the suggestions made in the survey are already included in a final plan is “ridiculous”.
“In general, we routinely reach out to our members to assess their perspective on various issues, or even components of issues, to determine whether they are part of laws they can support or, equally important, if not more important which components do not start, ”Espinosa said. “In all honesty, we sometimes even ask our members questions when we feel like they’re a non-runner or don’t have a lot of support just to confirm it.”
“I think it’s fair to say … some of these are non-starters.”
West Virginia currently has a limited medical marijuana program. If the state legalized recreational cannabis, it would join a growing trend in the region. Legislators in neighboring Virginia cleared adult marijuana legalization last weekend, and Maryland is also under scrutiny.