By ANDREA LANNOM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After arguments that the House has not prioritized the issue of legalizing medical marijuana, delegates approved a procedural move Thursday that sends the bill to the full chamber.
Delegate Michael Folk, R-Berkeley, made the motion during Thursday night’s floor session to bypass sending the bill, which was passed Wednesday by the Senate, to Judiciary and Health and Human Resources committees and instead send it to the floor for first reading.
During discussion, House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, speaking in favor, said, “This has not been an issue that has been prioritized.”
Both parties have been guilty of it in the past, he said, but it comes down to what members want to prioritize.
“This was made a priority by the Senate,” Miley said. “This has been a priority of many constituents. It’s time to make it a priority for us.”
The motion was approved 54-40 vote and the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, or Senate Bill 386, was advanced to second reading, or the amendment stage, and will be taken up Friday.
The legislation is modeled after Maryland’s law and would allow medical marijuana to be prescribed for certain medical conditions including anorexia, severe or chronic pain where standard pain medication is not effective, severe nausea, seizures, severe muscle spasms and PTSD.
The bill has a tiered rollout, becoming effective July 1, 2018. It also would create a Medical Cannabis Commission with the power to oversee the program. This commission would be in charge of fees for licenses along with creating rules. Fees for licenses would go into the General Revenue Fund at the end of each fiscal year.
Mercer County Delegate John Shott argued against the motion, saying the body should take more time to vet the bill. He has several concerns with the bill, especially regarding growers and physicians, fearing it will end up like a pill mill.
“It needs time to go through the process,” said Shott, R-Mercer, and Judiciary Committee chair. “In our committee, we would look at every state’s medical marijuana law and compare it and look at the pros and cons. If the results came forward that the Senate has the best version, then we would recommend to pass that version. If not, we could strike and insert with the best versions we could find with the least problems.”
Shott said advancing it to second reading without that committee reference will not give it the time it needs.
In closing, Folk told of a person in his district who is disabled from a brain injury who could aided by the bill. He said the bill has been vetted in the Senate and it has a year until it would be in effect. He also said that the commission would study and make rules and regulations addressing any concerns.
“I’m confident in the structure in place in this bill,” he said. “We have another whole legislative session to take up these rules and vet them.”
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