INSTITUTE, W.Va. – Legalizing medical marijuana is a hot topic all across the country and one that’s already gone before the legislature here in West Virginia.
The West Virginia Alliance for Drug Endangered Children tackled the issue Wednesday during its quarterly meeting at the State Police Academy in Institute.
Andrea Darr, the coordinator of the program, said it’s important for members of the group, which includes law enforcement, prosecutors, social workers, school counselors and others, to understand the what’s happening.
“Marijuana is an issue! It’s a problem! People think it’s just marijuana. It’s not a big deal. But it’s a drug. It impacts a parent’s ability to take care of their children,” stressed Darr.
She brought in guest speaker, Ed Shemelya, with the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area or HIDTA. He’s a 30-year veteran of the Kentucky State Police, the last 8-years dealing with drugs.
He told the Alliance that legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes is a dangerous proposition.
“I don’t want to give this perception to young people that marijuana, in its crude form, is medicine. I think we’re sending a horrible message to our kids,” according to Shemelya.
He said the FDA is currently working on finding the medicinal properties within the marijuana plant and then creating prescription medication of those compounds.
He said calling marijuana in it’s raw form “medicinal” is inaccurate. He used aspirin as an example.
“Compounds within aspirin come from the bark of a willow tree. I don’t think anyone advocates going and finding willow bark, crushing it, rolling it and smoking it to get the medicinal value to relieve a headache.”
Shemelya is urging members of the Alliance to look at the figures. He pointed to the 18 marijuana compassion states where pot is recognized by the law.
“What we do know is that teen usage rates [of marijuana] in these states, exceeds the national average,” according to Shemelya.
He said at this point the negatives outweigh the positives when it comes to legalizing medical marijuana in West Virginia.
It’s a topic that could go before the 2014 Legislative Session which begins in less than a month.