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HOLMBERG: Once pot is legalized, the Feds will get high on taxes

Posted at 1:15 AM, Sep 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-25 01:15:39-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Pot legalization is going to be like gay marriage. Eventually it's going to happen.

Of course, it's going to happen later here Virginia. And I'm not sure why that is. After all, Virginia had the nation's first pot laws in 1619 requiring that farmers grow it for ropes and sails. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew and championed the spread of hemp.

Now, everyone from televangelist Pat Robertson to a Times-Dispatch op-ed writer is lining up on the side of legalization.

But what, exactly, would that look like?

Who would monitor the quality and content? Would the big cigarette makers corner the market?

pot image

One thing's for certain: state and federal governments will tax the fire out of it.

A just-released report from the consumer finance site Nerdwallet estimates pot taxes would  bring $52 million year to Virginia and $3 billion a year to the Feds.

That's probably way low. Previous reports indicated legal pot could bring a smooth, rich $250 million a year in taxes to the Old Dominion AND another $240 million in savings from enforcement costs.

That sounds more like it. Alcohol brings about $185 million in taxes each year to Virginia and $6.3 billion to the United States. Cigarettes bring about $9 billion to Uncle Sam, who has long been addicted to tobacco and alcohol money.

Do you know how the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms got started? Busting all those people who didn't pay their liquor taxes. Same way with tobacco. Try to cheat Uncle Sam out of his big, fat cut and - bang! - federal offense.

It'll be the same way with pot. You want to go to federal prison? Buy or sell your pot on the black market and cheat the tax man.

Let's be honest, too, about

marijuana being harmful to your health - even "medical marijuana."

There's cancer, among other risks.

So let's consider, just briefly, decriminalizing pot like they've done in DC and elsewhere. We'd save all that enforcement money and still make good taxes off the money spent by black marketeers when they buy goods and services with their proceeds.

You want to legalize pot across the land? You might be careful what you wish for.

My guess is once those  big taxes kick in and the "revenuers" start cracking down on black marketeers, there will be a whole lot of growers, sellers and smokers wishing for the good ol' days.

That's my take. Please share yours here at WTVR.com