West Virginia Governor Says Weed Legalization Could Relieve State's Severe Opioid Crisis
Governor Jim Justice just said that his opposition to legal weed was “weakening” due to research showing that cannabis can help fight opioid abuse.
Published on March 3, 2021

The wealth of scientific evidence showing that access to legal weed can reduce the rates of opioid overprescription and abuse has convinced another US governor to accept the need for cannabis reform.

At a recent town hall meeting, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said that if state lawmakers sent him an adult-use legalization bill, he would be willing to sign it into law. The governor made it clear that although he does not personally support cannabis use, he believes that legal weed could help mitigate the severe opioid crisis that has ravaged his home state in recent years. 

Justice said that he’s traditionally supported marijuana prohibition, but is now “weakening on that position” after discussing cannabis reform with medical professionals. These experts told the governor “that really and truly the legalizing of marijuana in certain areas or certain states, from a recreational standpoint, have lowered their drug-type problems,” according to Marijuana Moment.

“I’ll just tell it like it is, I’m not educated enough to make a really good assessment as of yet,” Justice added. “But I can tell you just this: I do believe that that is coming, and the wave is coming across all of our states, and as that wave comes, if our House Republicans and Democrats and Senate Republicans and Democrats would get behind that effort from a standpoint of legalization of recreational marijuana and they would be supportive of that, I would too.”

While many states have used legal weed tax revenue to reinvigorate disadvantaged communities or to fund their school systems, Justice believes pot revenue could help support his effort to eliminate the state's personal income tax. In a recent proposal, the governor argued that cutting the state income tax by half would inspire more people to move to West Virginia, which would boost the economy enough to allow the state to eliminate income taxes altogether.

To make up for the revenue that would be lost once these cuts are implemented, the governor suggested that the state should place all of the pandemic-related federal funding it has been receiving into a “bucket” rather than using it for its actual purpose. But the governor also believes that weed tax revenue could help fill the fiscal hole that these tax cuts would create.

Justice said that he would be willing to support an adult-use legalization bill that would “bucket the proceeds [from cannabis tax revenue] and use them in a way, just like this personal income tax reduction…in a really beneficial way for all our people,” Marijuana Moment reports.

At this early stage, it's unclear if there is enough support in the state legislature to allow an adult-use bill to succeed. House Majority Whip Paul Espinosa (R) just circulated a poll to his fellow GOP lawmakers to discover if they would be willing to support a bill that would use legal weed tax revenue as a means to reduce the state's personal income taxes, so more information could be forthcoming.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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