Members of Loudoun’s Community Criminal Justice Board and Community Services Board will study the local impacts of the state government’s legalization of marijuana.
The study comes early—so early, in fact, that some aspects of the new law aren’t yet in effect and could still change, and none were in effect before July 1 of this year. Currently, Virginians age 21 and older are permitted to possess, grow and consume marijuana in limited amounts. Other sections of the legislation will not go into effect unless the General Assembly votes to reenact them in during the 2022 session, including those around governing growing and selling marijuana, and could still change.
A county staff report notes that the ad-hoc workgroup assembled for the study “believes it is unable to conduct research based on any theoretical and legal considerations within the human services areas. The difficulty lies in attempting to study hypothetical impacts specific to Loudoun and doing so prior to implementation of associated legislative changes, or when changes have been in effect for only a short period of time.”
Instead, the work group will review existing literature and studies from states where marijuana has been legalized, as well as local data collected by the Department of Community Corrections, the Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services, and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.
The study will look into three main areas.
A designee from the Community Services Board will study adult mental health and community services impacts, such as on hospitals and other services, including any populations impacted disproportionately. It will also include a data on marijuana-related diagnoses locally before July 1, 2017.
Another will review existing studies on the impacts of marijuana legalization on youth, including neurological effects of marijuana on teenagers and data on youth marijuana usage before and after legalization in other states.
And a Community Criminal Justice Board designee will study public safety and law enforcement impacts from Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana, along with the study from the Virginia General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission conducted in advance of the legislature’s vote to legalize. The General Assembly’s law largely followed the recommendations of that study.
Loudoun’s study was proposed by County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). She has been critical of marijuana legalization, arguing the drug is more dangerous than alcohol or nicotine—cigarettes being something she has called the only drug that, when used as intended, will kill you, and which she voted to tax—because it affects driving ability but has no breathalyzer equivalent test. She likened taxing marijuana sales to turning the government into drug dealers.
The Loudoun study is due back to the Board of Supervisors by June 2022. Supervisors approved the study 8-0-1 on Dec .7, Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) absent.
This article was updated Dec. 10 at 3:32 p.m. with a correction about the legal age to possess marijuana in Virginia.