While West Virginia is one of the last states anyone would have thought was next in line to legalize a comprehensive medical marijuana program, it seems that lawmakers there are more progressive than what the cannabis reform community may have given them credit for.
On Wednesday, the state Senate approved a bill in a vote of 28-to-6 that would allow people with permission from a doctor to purchase medical marijuana from their friendly neighborhood dispensary. The proposal (Senate Bill 386), which was introduced by Senator Richard Ojeda, also comes with a provision for home cultivation, giving qualified patients the freedom to grow up to two plants at home for personal use.
If approved, patients suffering from “chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions that result in a patient being admitted into hospice or receiving palliative care, and chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions or the treatment of chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions that produce: cachexia, anorexia, or wasting syndrome; severe or chronic pain that does not find effective relief through standard pain medication; severe nausea; seizures; severe or persistent muscle spasms; refractory generalized anxiety disorder” and PTSD would be allowed to use medical marijuana. Other qualified conditions could be approved later down the line.
The measure now goes before the House of Delegates for consideration, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. But there is some concern that this is where the medical marijuana debate will die. After all, this group of lawmakers is responsible for the recent stalling of a similar measure.
“I know people are saying ‘the speaker won’t run it, the speaker won’t run it,’” Ojeda said. “You know what? It’s time. It’s time for our state to open up our eyes and our minds and realize you know if it’s a gateway drug, it’s a gateway out of opioid addiction and it’s a gateway for people to have a better life that only have a small little bit of life left.”
A spokesman for the House said Speaker Tim Armstead plans to gauge interest in the bill before deciding on whether to move it forward.
Marijuana advocates believe the bill could be the solution to the state’s opioid problem.
“For many patients, medical marijuana is a far safer alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs,” Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy Project told MERRY JANE in an emailed statement. “Any delegates who are serious about addressing the opiate crisis in West Virginia need to consider the substantial benefits this law could have on that front. We hope Speaker Armstead will review the facts and give this bill a fair shake in the House.”
In a similar matter, a Senate committee also passed a resolution on Wednesday urging Congress to pass legislation that would allow marijuana to be downgraded from its Schedule I classification under the Controlled Substances Act.