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Editorial: A compassionate vote for medical marijuana in WV

From The Charleston Gazette Mail:

Amid the Legislature’s chaos over the state budget and other issues, a bright spot has emerged. Lawmakers moved swiftly toward making West Virginia the 30th state to allow medical marijuana to ease the suffering of cancer victims and others in agony.

Battling over compassionate pot has been intense. The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union summed up:

“After overcoming numerous obstacles, Senate Bill 386 passed the Senate on Wednesday night at the last possible moment. And then, in a dramatic floor vote in the House, legislators defied their leadership and forced the bill out of the traditional committee process and onto the agenda for a vote of the full House. This was a historic, perhaps unprecedented, moment in the West Virginia Legislature.”

Some concerned lawmakers gave passionate descriptions of veterans with PTSD or children with epilepsy who benefit from the calming effect of cannabis. They entreated fellow legislators to show mercy, as 29 other states have done.

Here’s a side-benefit: Legalizing medical pot could ease the state’s terrible rate of opioid overdose deaths, because it would give people a safer alternative to painkillers. The ACLU chapter noted:

“We have seen the debilitating impact over-prescription of highly addictive opiates can have on our communities. Studies show that medical marijuana could help lessen the opiate addiction crisis in West Virginia.”

Nearly 3,000 Mountain State residents died of opioids in the past three years — despite use of naloxone rescue medication to revive unconscious victims. Three thousand families have been thrown into tragic grief. How many might have been saved, if they could have used relatively harmless, nonaddictive pot instead?

Alarm has been raised that House Speaker Tim Armstead and other leaders may try to scuttle this bandwagon. However, we hope the upsurge of compassion carries through, and West Virginia becomes the 30th state allowing medical marijuana.

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