UPDATE: W.Va. House gives medical marijuana bill first reading

UPDATE 3/30/17 @ 11:55 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates held their first reading and discussion on the Senate’s version of the medical marijuana bill, ahead of schedule, Thursday evening.

Courtesy: MGN Online
Courtesy: MGN Online

In a rare move, lawmakers voted to bypass house leadership and the committee process and put SB 386 straight to the floor of the house.

Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha, 37) says similar bills have had a history of dying in committee without ever being seen by the house body. But, this time, lawmakers felt compelled to forcibly move the bill into the debate stage.

“There were a lot of us who felt it was never going to make it on a committee agenda,” Pushkin said.

The move was passed by a vote of 54-40-6, making this medical marijuana bill the first of its kind to ever get to the house floor.

Pushkin says the historic vote is proof that public opinion on the issue of medical marijuana is warming.

“West Virginians overwhelmingly support this measure,” Pushkin said.

The bill would only permit marijuana use under a doctor’s guidance for things like PTSD, chronic pain, seizures, anxiety and more.

The bill also requires a medical cannabis commission be instated to control who is eligible.

Still, opponents say, legalizing medical marijuana would be the start of a slippery slope in a state already notorious for issues involving drugs.

“We in … West Virginia have seen what’s happened with pill mills where physicians…profit from opioids,” Del. John Shott (R-Mercer, 27) said. “It’s scary.”

A second reading is scheduled to happen Friday.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The West Virginia Senate on Wednesday approved medical marijuana use with a doctor’s guidance.

It is intended for patients with certain debilitating conditions. SB 386, the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, is sponsored by Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan.

Under the bill, a 16-member medical cannabis commission would oversee the program. That commission would include medical professionals, law enforcement officials, and government agency representatives, to establish and oversee a state medical marijuana program.

The bill will now be considered in the House of Delegates, where a similar measure stalled in committee earlier this year.

“We applaud the Senate for standing up for seriously ill West Virginians and giving them hope with this much-needed legislation,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University, in a news release. “For many patients, medical marijuana is a far safer alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs. 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.”

A review of more than 10,000 scientific abstracts released in January by the National Academies of Sciences found “conclusive or substantial evidence” that cannabis is effective in the treatment of chronic pain. A study published this year in International Journal of Drug Policy found marijuana is an effective replacement for opioids to treat severe pain.

“Thousands of seriously ill West Virginians are anxiously waiting for their lawmakers to do the right thing and pass this bill,” Simon said. “They shouldn’t have to suffer or be treated like criminals while patients in 28 other states can legally access medical marijuana.”

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted effective medical marijuana laws and 16 states have adopted medical marijuana laws that are ineffective because they are either unworkable or exceptionally restrictive. West Virginia is one of only six states in the nation that has not adopted any form of medical marijuana law.

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