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St Croix is a Step Closer to Legalized Medical Marijuana
On November 27th, the St Croix Chamber of Commerce was asked to submit testimony regarding Bill 32-0135 Medical Marijuana
November 27, 2018
St Croix Chamber of Commerce
Good Day and thank you for asking the St Croix Chamber of Commerce to testify on the economic impact and job creation that could be associated with the legalization of Medical Marijuana in the US Virgin Islands. Taxed and well-regulated medical cannabis programs could create numerous economic benefits to the VI government. These systems are already being implemented in over 23 states and their reward is bountiful.
INCREASE REVENUES WITHOUT TAX INCREASES
It would raise a substantial amount of revenue for the Virgin Islands governments.
Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota voted to allow medical marijuana while Arizona defeated that move. All told, more and more states are moving to legalize marijuana (whether for medicinal or recreational use, or both), and the impact has already been tremendous. The legal changes have spawned an industry of legal cannabis companies, including those which aim to research and develop cannabis-based medical products, those which are working to distribute and grow marijuana, and many others. All told, more than half of U.S. states have medical marijuana laws on the books, and nine states have legalized certain quantities of marijuana for recreational use as well.
Forbes Magazine-Researchers found that legalizing marijuana had a positive impact on the economy of Pueblo County, Colo. (similar in size to the VI) In a landmark report out of the Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Institute of Cannabis Research, researchers found that a taxed and regulated cannabis industry contributed more than $58 million to the local economy, reports The Denver Post. While there was about $23 million in added costs to legalization – including law enforcement and social services – the county still ended up with a net positive impact of more than $35 million.
Legalizing cannabis would create a lot of jobs
Setting up marijuana nurseries and dispensaries would be the first step for the VI if it voted in favor of medical marijuana. These would not only create jobs but also set the ball rolling for economic activity in the pot industry in these areas. In the case of states like California and Nevada where such infrastructure already exists, the economic impact has become more quantifiable as the sector has matured.
A RCG Economics and Marijuana Policy Group study on Nevada says that legalizing recreational marijuana in the state could support over 41,000 jobs till 2024 and generate over $1.7 billion in labor income. The ICF study estimates at least 81,000 additional direct, indirect and induced jobs in California as a result of legalized marijuana sales. It also projects an increase in total labor income by at least $3.5 billion.
Workers would be needed to farm, process, distribute, and sell marijuana-based products. Further, there would be ample opportunities for secondary industries which were related to legal cannabis although not directly involved in its production and distribution. These might include software developers, financing services, construction companies, and many others.
DECREASE GOVERNMENT SPENDING
Billions of dollars saved in law-enforcement costs
The study’s authors pointed out some of the harms associated with legalization, including an increase in illegal marijuana grow operations and confusion among law enforcement officers trying to keep up with ever-changing pot regulations. But the RCG report is notable in dispelling some of the harms that are often attributed to legalization: The researchers found no evidence that legal cannabis contributed to increased homelessness or increased youth use of marijuana. Pueblo has made headlines for its scholarships that are funded by a local marijuana excise tax. Last year, the county dedicated $420,000 to scholarships for 210 students. This year, the county is set to triple the number of scholarships it offers as tax collections are expected to top $750,000.
When considering the economic benefits of legal marijuana, it’s important to think of the money that might be saved as well as revenue that could be generated through such a process. Currently, federal marijuana enforcement costs several billion dollars per year. A 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that the costs at that time were approximately $3.6 billion per year. The more states that legalize cannabis, the lower the cost of enforcement would likely be; if marijuana were to be legalized on a national level, these costs would likely drop considerably. If marijuana were removed from the list of controlled substances, far fewer court cases involving the substance would go to trial, resulting in fewer incarcerations, and, in turn, more money saved.
FORTIFY INFRASTRUCTURE AND SOCIAL PROGRAMS
Legalization is good for social programs and current non-profits
Legal marijuana presents the possibility of tremendous benefits to economies on a local and a national scale. These economic benefits can be used to create better hospitals and mental health facilities. The money could also be used to educate the community of the use and abuse of Marijuana. An opening tax could be established that would do directly into the GERS and the taxes associated with production could be earmarked for agriculture and business programs in High Schools. This new stream of revenue to the VI Government in income taxes and business associated fees could grow our recovering infrastructure in ways that a new industry to our islands hasn’t in years.
The St Croix Chamber of Commerce surveyed their members and asked if they were in favor or not of legalizing Medical Marijuana and why. The results showed overwhelming support of legalization in over 94% of our members who responded.
Some key comments were—
“I believe that medical cannabis has proven effects on many aspects of patient care. I’ve seen it work first hand for chronic and acute pain management and anxiety. It helps cancer treatment patients with nausea and has many other additional benefits. And it is a natural crop that can be grown here!”
“There are a lot of people that are suffering and Cannabis can help without the harmful effects that a lot of other legal drugs cause. It is also an opportunity to expand our economic base and make the VI a medical tourism destination.”
“Over 32 states have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Research suggest that marijuana can be used for various medical purposes, including pain, nausea and loss of appetite, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, PTSD, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. Medical marijuana can also help fight the opioid epidemic.”
“It’s a natural healing substance. The people should have access to alternative healing & not be forced to only have chemicals to heal.”
There was also concerns that the population needed to be educated on advantages and disadvantages of marijuana crop growing on the island. More education on a subject that is unfamiliar to a lot of people is important to dispel misinformation. This hearing is a great step forward in opening up these discussions.
Thank you for allowing us to contribute to the discussion on the legalization of Medical Marijuana and its economic benefits to our community.
St Croix Chamber of Commerce