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Medical marijuana bill heads to Gov. Justice’s office


The Journal

CHARLESTON, W. Va.  — The majority in Charleston has continued to support the medical marijuana bill, but amendments have been adopted to prohibit the smoking of cannabis and put big pharma in charge of much of the processing and distribution, according to Delegate Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley.

Barrett said he fully supports the bill because marijuana can provide relief to constituents suffering from certain medical conditions. He said he has received a lot of letters from parents of children with epilepsy and other constituents who have been forced to go to other states to seek relief for their conditions.

The House had to decide between two amendments that overlapped in many ways, according to Barrett. Both Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, and Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, introduced amendments, but Shott’s amendment was the one lawmakers voted to adopt.

Barrett said the basic tenants of Shott’s amendment is that big pharma is more heavily involved in the process, owning any marijuana plants is not allowed and it places restrictions on how marijuana can be consumed for medical purposes.

The amendment also decrees that growers must pay a one time fee of $50,000 and an annual license fee of $5,000.

Although Barrett fully supports the medical marijuana bill, he believes Pushkin’s amendment would have been the better option for West Virginians.

“Under Pushkin’s amendment, West Virginians with the proper certification could own two immature and two mature plants of cannabis,” Barrett said. “They can’t own any plants under Shott’s amendment. It only provides provisions for processed marijuana. West Virginians would not be able to smoke marijuana under the current amendment either, and from what I understand, smoking marijuana has specific medical benefits for treating cancers and other conditions.”

Although the House debated the pros and cons of the two amendments, Shott’s amendment and the bill passed 76 to 24 on Tuesday.

The bill went back to the Senate where it originated, and Sen. Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, said she’s grateful it passed the House.

“I haven’t had time to analyze the amendments nor what it really does to the bill,” Rucker said on Tuesday. “What matters to me is that we allow the doctors to prescribe what’s best for the patient.”

With a 28 to 6 vote, the bill passed the Senate on Wednesday as well. Rucker said Gov. Jim Justice will now have the option to sign the bill, which he is expected to do.

“By legalizing medical cannabis, West Virginia will be providing relief to so many who are in pain. Veterans suffering from PTSD, children with epilepsy and people with cancer all now have another treatment option. With this new pain relief option available, fewer people will need to rely on highly addictive opiates,” said Joseph Cohen, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia. “While this new law isn’t perfect, it is so much better than the current outright prohibition of marijuana. This is a huge step in the long fight for just drug policies. We hope this is a sign that the state is ready to turn the corner on how it views addiction.”

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