Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months, including three through Republican-controlled legislatures
Gov. Jim Justice signed SB 386 into law on Wednesday, making West Virginia the 29th state in the nation to enact legislation allowing seriously ill patients to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
SB 386, titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, was introduced by Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) and, unfortunately, was significantly weakened in the House before receiving final legislative approval on April 6. It charges the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries.
Patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions will be allowed to use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but, unfortunately, not marijuana in flower or leaf form. A summary of the bill is available at http://bit.ly/2nbUAq3.“We’ve got a monumental day,” Gov. Justice said just prior to signing the bill. “We’ve got a day exemplifying really just the compassion West Virginians have for their fellow man.”
“With great pleasure, I’m going to sign this into law, and I think all of us will feel good we are doing something good for a family out there,” Justice said.
“This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms.“It is a proven pain reliever, and it is far less toxic and less addictive than a lot of prescription drugs,” Simon said. “Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state.” West Virginia has been plagued by the opioid addiction epidemic currently sweeping the nation. Its overdose death rate far outpaces any other state, reports the Associated Press.
Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months. Three of those laws, including West Virginia’s, passed through Republican-controlled legislatures. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio approved them last April and June, respectively. The other three were approved by voters in November in red states won by Donald Trump — Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota.
“Intensifying public support and a growing body of evidence are driving the rapid growth in the number of states adopting medical marijuana laws,” Simon said. “Lawmakers are also learning about marijuana’s medical benefits from friends, family members, and constituents who have experienced them firsthand in other states.“More than nine out of 10 American voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes,” Simon said. “In light of this near universal support, it is shocking that some legislatures still have not adopted effective medical marijuana laws.”
“Americans for Safe Access applauds the West Virginia legislature,” said Beth Collins, senior director of Government Relations and External Affairs at Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “The passage of a medical cannabis program in West Virginia is a perfect example of how much farther state legislators are on this issue than some of their federal counterparts.
“We now have 45 states with some type of medical cannabis laws that were passed due to thousands of patients advocating in their statehouses,” Collins said. “We need federal legislation, such as the CARERS Act, to protect these laws.”
“There is increasing evidence that medical cannabis can help opioid users manage pain more efficiently, resulting in lower doses of these potentially deadly narcotics. In some cases, cannabis can even replace opioids in regard to pain reduction therapy,” Collins said. “Given this information, it’s safe to say that West Virginia’s legalization of medical cannabis could reduce the amount of opioid overdose deaths in the state.”
Patient identification cards could be issued starting July 1, 2019. The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health will oversee implementation of the law.
A February 2017 Quinnipiac University Poll found 93 percent of U.S. voters think marijuana should be legal for medical purposes.
Effective medical marijuana laws have now been enacted in 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. An additional 18 states have adopted medical marijuana laws that are ineffective because they are either unworkable or exceptionally restrictive. Only three states — Idaho, Indiana, and Kansas — have not approved any form of medical marijuana law.