CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House Speaker Tim Armstead says continued attempts by those wanting to legalize marijuana for recreational use helped kill a bill on the last night of the regular 60-day session Saturday night.
“There are so many people whose ultimate goal is to legalize marijuana recreationally in all areas to try to get it into the mix and try to put that into the bill that we’re working on. Frankly, that’s what killed this bill,” Armstead (R-Kanawha) said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
The House of Delegates passed HB 4345, which included changes to the current medical marijuana law. The original goal of the bill was to help put a framework in place for the law. The Senate changed the bill to include a number of provisions that Armstead said he was not comfortable with.
“There’s always been this concern because marijuana is still illegal on a federal level,” he said.
Because the bill died in the House, the future of the program is in question. Armstead said he believes the state is still on track to begin issuing patients and caregivers identification cards on July 1, 2019.
“I think we’re still on course. There’s still going to need to be changes and whether those changes are made in the next regular session, or before that, or things are going to have to be evaluated, I think that there are specific changes,” he said.
Armstead said the House passed a three-page bill earlier in the session, but did not receive changes from the Senate until late Saturday. The Senate made numerous changes to the bill and sent it back as a 20-plus page bill.
“Our Judiciary Committee looked very closely at that and came up with a bill that I thought was fairly limited and addressed the issues that needed to be addressed,” Armstead said. “It didn’t come back until almost 7:00 on Saturday — the last day of session.”
Most of the changes came from recommendations made by the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. One change the Senate included in the bill that the House did not was a request to provide the dry leaf form of the drug.
Other changes included increasing the amount of growers, processors and dispensaries in West Virginia. The bill also allowed for vertical integration, meaning businesses can act at any combination of growers, processors and dispensaries. Patients would also be required to pre-register for the program before it takes affect next year.