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Medical marijuana bill up for full WV Senate vote


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would legalize and regulate medical marijuana in West Virginia.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, still needs to be approved by the full Senate, go through the House of Delegates committee process and be voted on by that body, as well as be signed by the governor, before it would become law.

Senate Bill 386, as explained by an attorney for the committee during the meeting Tuesday afternoon, would establish a system for the legalization and regulation of medical cannabis in West Virginia.

It creates a West Virginia Medical Cannabis Commission, which would be responsible for rule-making and consist of 17 members of law enforcement, attorneys and medical professionals.

The bill also creates a West Virginia Medical Cannabis Commission Fund. It caps the number of growers at 15, but that number could be changed later based on demand.

It would cap the number of dispensaries at 60, but that number could also be changed later.

Qualifying medical conditions in the bill passed Tuesday include: “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 post-traumatic stress disorder. It also gives the commission permission to approve other conditions.

Former state senator Lisa Smith drove from South Carolina to speak for three minutes during the meeting. Smith, who resigned from the state Senate in 2004, told the committee that her father, a former captain in the State Police, died six months after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and would have lived longer with access to medical marijuana. She said that denying her mother, whom she said was injured in nursing homes and lives in pain, access to the drug was “inhumane.”
The bill passed the committee by voice vote, with 13 voting for it and three voting against.

Sens. Charles Trump, R-Morgan and the committee chair; Bob Beach, D-Monongalia; Charles Clements, R-Wetzel; Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio; Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam; Robert Karnes, R-Upshur; Mark Maynard, R-Wayne; Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier; Mike Romano, D-Harrison; Randy Smith, R-Tucker; Chandler Swope, R-Mercer; Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell; and Ojeda voted for the bill.

Sens. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke and the committee vice-chair; Mike Azinger, R-Wood; and Sue Cline, R-Wyoming, voted against it.

Sen. Patrica Rucker, R-Jefferson, was not present.

The bill also was on second reading in the Senate Tuesday. It was read for the first time Saturday. It will be up for third reading — the bill passage stage — Wednesday. Wednesday is the last day to consider bills on third reading in their house of origin.

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