The Times West Virginian

November 10, 2013

Is it time to legalize marijuana for medicinal use?

By Misty Poe
Times West Virginian

— Despite the fact that 20 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, the federal government still says the drug is Schedule 1 — a substance that offers no medical benefits and has a high threat of addiction. And that may be holding West Virginia back from having a serious discussion about legalization of the street drug.

“I would like to see the feds get on board with us,” Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, said during a joint House and Senate Health Committee meeting earlier this fall.

“If the FDA were to say, ‘Hey, there are some medical reasons to use this’ and back us up, then I think (state legalization is) not an unreasonable thing.”

How likely is that? Well, not very. They’ve essentially left it up to the states to decide whether to allow it and how to regulate it. But how likely is it that West Virginia will be the 21st state to legalize pot?

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, has introduced bills for the past two years that would have legalized marijuana for medical use in West Virginia.

“These compassionate bills would have provided relief to patients with a variety of serious, debilitating conditions, but sadly, the bills did not receive serious consideration,” the site reads. “Fortunately for patients, the situation has changed dramatically in 2013. Delegate Manypenny has submitted two bills this year, and the second, H.B. 2961, attracted nine co-sponsors! A public hearing was held March 28 in the House Health and Human Resources Committee, and 18 supporters spoke in favor of the bill. Surprisingly, no opponents showed up to speak against the bill!”

There is a drive from state organizations, too. In October, the Silver-Haired Legislature issued a position paper asking the state to adopt legalization.

“In many cases, it is a more effective and less-dangerous option than pharmaceutical drugs,” the position paper said. “The proposed reform would make it possible for adults battling illnesses to access marijuana safely and legally, without having to deal with an illicit market dominated by criminals.”

These aren’t “pot heads.” These are senior citizens of the state, active in their communities. Is it time to seriously start the discussion?

Last week we asked our readers to weigh in on the issue on our website, www.timeswv.com, where you can vote each week in our online poll question. We asked last week “Should medicinal marijuana be legalized in West Virginia?” And here’s what you had to say:

• There are already flaws with prescription medication and abuse. We shouldn’t open this door — 13.75 percent.

• Legalizing this type of drug shouldn’t even be considered — 31.25 percent.

• Studies show the extraordinary health benefits for those with chronic diseases and pain. We should consider it — 55 percent.

Perhaps it is time for the Legislature to seriously consider the issue. And we’ll continue the conversation soon. But let’s talk about the lawmakers this week. With elections gearing up, which will be the races to watch in West Virginia?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV