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Is tide shifting on legalizing marijuana?

For many years, there was a line in the sand when it came to legalizing recreational marijuana in West Virginia. We might have nudged against it with the much-delayed rollout of medical marijuana, or through discussions among some lawmakers over the past few years about decriminalization, but that was where the momentum ended.

Now, a rising tide may be threatening to wash away that line, and Gov. Jim Justice seems to be standing knee-deep in the surf holding a stick as the water approaches.

“I’m not educated enough to make a really good assessment as of yet, but I do believe that wave is coming across all our states. If our House and Senate gets behind that effort and legalizes marijuana, I would too,” Justice said during a town hall earlier this month.

He prefaced that statement with a reassertion of his own doubts on the matter, and he is right to still be worried about whether the legalization of one drug will worsen the Mountain State’s crippling substance abuse crisis, which continues to take lives and destroy families and communities.

But, as the governor pointed out, “The medical community tells me the legalizing of marijuana from a recreational standpoint has lowered their drug problems.”

It is a thorny issue. Lawmakers want to do the right thing in keeping residents safe; but they also want to be forward-thinking in terms of attracting and retaining young residents, listening to advice from the medical and social services communities, and seeking new revenue streams.

If Justice is “weakening” in his opposition to legalized (and therefore, regulated) recreational marijuana in West Virginia, perhaps the time is right for a genuine discussion among lawmakers on the matter.

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