Your turn — Drug use: From marginal to mainstream

Published 12:45 pm Thursday, August 25, 2022

As I wrote going into August, I continue to focus on those things that were once considered marginal but now are considered mainstream. This week I will address the changing opinion on recreational drug use. In the 60s and 70s, the use of marijuana was something that college students experimented with much to the concern of parents and adults. Many believed that this would lead to the use of more powerful drugs such as LSD, cocaine, and heroin. Thankfully, for most it did not. However, some did become addicted emotionally or physically to drugs.

21ST CENTURY THINKING

In the last several years, there has been a growing movement to ignore past concerns, allowing anyone to do whatever they want to do. The old motto was ‘if it feels good, do it’. It started when Colorado ignored federal law and allowed the free commerce of marijuana within the state. Since then, other states saw the tax money Colorado was collecting and followed suit.

A fact that should be considered: the marijuana of 2022 has a much stronger potency than the product of the 60s. This is the result of careful cultivation rarely found in the wild.

Some in the Virginia General Assembly jumped on the bandwagon when the Democrats had full control of state government. They believed that this was the popular thing to do. They want the snowball to keep rolling through Virginia.

2021 LEGISLATION

The proponents, after dithering around for most of the session, chose to draft a piece of legislation placed on desks with no serious chance for opponents to know what was included. They had limited response to many of the questions that were raised. The authors of the bill had limited expertise in criminal law and little or no experience in small business. Thankfully, because of all the moving parts involved, they were forced to include language requiring the bill to be voted on again in 2022 before Virginia would allow commercial marijuana sales.

The bill created a commission to oversee the process. One of the provisions of the bill was that dealership licenses would be awarded based on a system that would enhance the opportunity of those who have a criminal record for drug use. It also included a 22% tax on all sales.

Any small businessman could have warned that these stipulations were unworkable. One must understand the underground economy. Currently, if someone has been a dealer to customers for several years, they are not likely to even attempt to apply for a license. They will continue to operate as they have. Those that apply for a license will have to open a storefront business including all the costs of having a business. Costs they will have to mark up the price to cover, such as rent, utilities, and employees. Those business costs plus the 22% state tax will make them unlikely to compete.

Then you get into the issue of the quality of the product. The licensee will promise they will have the purer product. They might, but this will not relate to those buying from their established dealer.

Then there is the issue of fentanyl. This is a potentially deadly manufactured drug that is produced in China and smuggled in along our southern border.

If I am a drug dealer, I am not simply going to stop doing business. If I am losing my business to the corner store, I will enhance my product by adding something to make it give the user a greater high. A slight amount of fentanyl might do that; too much could easily kill a user. Smart dealers do not want to kill off their customers.

2022 SESSION

Thankfully, with the Republicans in control of the House of Delegates, the train was slowed. This gives saner folks the opportunity to reconsider the whole issue.

As it stands now, it does leave in place the right of individuals to cultivate a few plants for their own use, but it does not allow them to sell to others.

We will have to wait and see what the long-term situation will be in future years. I find it very unacceptable that our motivation on the state level to risk the health of our citizens for a stack of tax money. Once addicted, the snowball will roll over us.

FRANK RUFF JR. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen. Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.