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Medical marijuana legislation amended in WV Senate


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — The use of medical marijuana in leaf form would be prohibited under an amendment to a legislation narrowly approved by the West Virginia House of Delegates.

Senate Bill 386, a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, had its second of three required readings in the House of Delegates, Monday. After this, members debated two competing amendments.

The first of these, proposed by House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, and Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, was approved. It would make it illegal to dispense marijuana in dry leaf or plant form to a patient. Medicines from marijuana would have to be in the form of patches, pills or potions.

The second, offered by Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, would have allowed patients to have up to four plants for their own personal use.

The Shott-Zatezalo amendment passed by a vote of 51-48. In approving the amendment, members struck out and replaced legislation approved by the Senate. Under House rules, the second competing amendment was not voted upon.

Local delegates voting in favor of the Shott/Zatezalo amendment were delegates Roger Romine, R-Tyler; Erikka Storch, R-Ohio; and Zatezalo. Voting no were delegates Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock; Phil Diserio, D-Brooke; Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio; Joe Canestraro and Mike Ferro, both D-Marshall; and David Pethtel, D-Wetzel.

Opponents of the approved amendment said it drastically changes the legislation from that already approved by the Senate, which did not prohibit the dispensing of marijuana in dry leaf form or establish other limits regarding possession of the plant. They expressed concern on the House floor that the Senate would not approve the measure with the change, and that many in their districts are in need of medical marijuana and could not wait another year for its passage.

Zatezalo spoke on the floor against those concerns.

“I have heard nothing in this debate that the Shott amendment will eliminate the possibility of patients getting the medical marijuana they need,” he said. “The discussion has reinforced what I thought before. We should go forward…

“I have no fear of the Senate. Fear of the Senate is no way to go through life.”

Zatezalo could not be reached for further comment late Monday.

The measure still must be read a third time before there is a vote for passage. After this, any changes must be approved by the Senate or through a joint conference committee.

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