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State Republican Party comes out against medical marijuana bill


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Republican Party asked its members in the House of Delegates to vote no on a bill, up for second reading Monday, that would permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state.

The letter, which is from the West Virginia Republican Platform Committee and addressed to WV House Republican members, notes that the state party’s 2016 platform states: “We support those who are practicing drug-abuse prevention efforts at the local and state levels and oppose the normalization, legalization, or decriminalization of any illicit drugs.”

Senate Bill 386, which would create a West Virginia Medical Cannabis Commission to oversee medical marijuana regulation in the state, is on second reading in the House of Delegates today. Debate on the bill is likely to come this evening.

Amendments to the bill were still being hotly debated in the House on Monday evening.

The bill, which delegates have said is based on a similar bill in Maryland, also sets up a revenue fund, includes a list of qualifying health conditions (which the commission could later add to), requires background checks for people involved in the system and prohibits operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana, among numerous other provisions. The bill states that the commission wouldn’t begin issuing licenses until July 2020.

“Thousands of Republicans gave input for the state party platform and now we ask you honor the will of those citizens,” the letter states, adding that “It is heartbreaking for our grassroots volunteers to see SB386 on the verge of becoming law.”

“In these final days of the legislative session and as you consider SB386, please remember 1 Peter 5:8: ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,’” the letter continues. “We ask our members to vote NO on Senate Bill 386.”

Also Monday, Bill Flanigan, a former delegate who spoke on the House floor last year about using medical marijuana during chemotherapy, was spotted at the state Capitol. After he spoke last year, delegates agreed to table a bill that would have lengthened prison terms for people bringing drugs into the state.

“I’m here to see why the guys who told me right to my face last year they would vote for a medical marijuana bill are saying this year they won’t vote for it,” he said.

House members voted 54-40 to fast-track the bill and read it for a first time Thursday evening. The vote came in response to concern that House leadership would kill the bill. It already had passed the Senate and needs to be read three times in the House of Delegates and signed by the governor to become law.

House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, said Friday that he wanted to wait until today to read the bill a second time, saying he wanted time to review the bill and propose an amendment. He asked for unanimous consent to postpone further consideration of the bill until Monday, and no one objected.

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