At least one county supervisor, County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), has voiced opposition to collecting a local tax on marijuana sales when that becomes legal in 2024.
Under a state law passed this year, starting July 1 it will be legal for people 21 and up to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to four marijuana plants per household. Retail sales will become legal in 2024 under the new Virginia Cannabis Control Authority. It also provides for expungement of convictions for marijuana-related offenses and directs support and resources to people and communities that have been disproportionately affected by drug enforcement.
The county board will also have the option to levy a 3% tax on retail marijuana sales on top of any other local taxes that may apply.
Some supervisors and Loudoun’s sheriff have strongly criticized that law, and Randall continued that opposition during the May 4 board meeting.
“Legalizing marijuana is done for one reason and one reasons only, and that’s to get tax money,” Randall said. “I do not believe that we should be getting tax money off of an addictive substance.”
Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) likened it to the local cigarette tax—which supervisors unanimously supported during a meeting earlier this year—while saying he, too, opposes legalizing marijuana. He said it would be akin to outlawing cigarettes in Loudoun while they remain legal a few minutes’ drive away in surrounding counties.
“All that cigarette tax revenue would go somewhere else. The decision has been made,” Turner said. “We are not going to isolate ourselves as somehow morally and ethically saying this is wrong and we’re going to stand against it in Loudoun County and have even one twit’s worth of effect on the moral and community outcome of that stand. What we will do is lose millions and millions of dollars’ worth of revenue.”
Randall disagreed, arguing marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol or nicotine because it affects driving ability but there is no breathalyzer equivalent test for marijuana impairment, and called it a “morally bankrupt decision.”
“If it’s still an addictive substance, we are drug dealers, and I don’t think that’s OK,” Randall said.”
The new state law gives localities the option to hold a voter referendum on whether to prohibit marijuana sales before the end of 2022. Supervisors who might want to prohibit marijuana sales in Loudoun will get one shot at that referendum. Under the law, if the majority votes to allow marijuana sales, there will be no more referenda on the topic. If the voters vote not to allow sales, another referendum may be held up to every four years.