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Opinion: Consider expanding marijuana panel

From The Intelligencer of Wheeling: 

Not a single member of the advisory panel helping prepare rules for medical use of marijuana in West Virginia is from the Northern Panhandle. In fact, only two of the 13 are from the northern half of the state (Morgantown and Great Cacapon).

Members of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board were announced by the state Department of Health and Human Resources. Nine are from the Charleston-Huntington corridor.

Given the need to include key state officials on the panel, some geographic imbalance is necessary. But given the imperative to get medical marijuana rules right, representation from other areas of the state is important, too.

State officials plan to enlist expertise from outside the board. Dr. William Mercer, Ohio County’s health director, said he has been told his input will be sought.

That is a good thing. Mercer is among health care professionals with distinctly mixed feelings about legalizing marijuana for medicinal use.

Involving people with questions such as Mercer’s will be critical to ensure appropriate safeguards against abuse are put in place.

State officials should reconsider the composition of the panel. Both geographically and in outlooks on the issue, the widest possible range of expertise is needed to get this one right.

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