Senate health committee passes medical marijuana bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the Senate Health and Human Resources passed a bill Friday that would legalize medical marijuana in West Virginia.

The vote for the WV Medical Cannabis Act (SB 386) was 6-5.

Two amendments to the bill were adopted during the committee’s Friday meeting. One of those amendments, offered by Senator Robert Karnes (R-Upshur, 11), says anyone with a prescription for medical cannabis is allowed to grow two plants at his or her home for personal use.

Senator Patricia Rucker (R-Jefferson, 16) voted against Karnes’ amendment because she said there is no way of knowing how patients will use the drug in their own home, which puts doctors at risk.

“How are the doctors and physicians who are given the responsibility of taking care of these patients supposed to know that these patients are following directions and only taking it the way that they need to?” Rucker asked.

Karnes explained the drug will be used by people who are licensed to use it.

“If law enforcement came to your residence for whatever reason and they found these two plants, you would be able to show them your prescription and you would therefore not be subject, but if you didn’t have the prescription, then you’re just growing pot, so you’re subject to all the legal process,” he said.

The other amendment, offered by Senator Ron Stollings (D-Boone, 07), would allocate 10 percent of contracting proceeds to drug prevention and rehabilitation. The amendment says that 10 percent would be given to veterans in the state agriculture program.

Opponents of the bill say more research needs to happen, it’s too dangerous to use and it lacks approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“I’m not a lawyer. I have no idea what it means to legalize something in the state when it’s an illegal drug federally. I’m not sure what that would mean. I need somebody to explain that to me,” said Senator Mike Maroney (R-Marshall, 02) who voted against the bill.

But supporters argue the access to medical usage will result in fewer opioid deaths and less prescription painkiller abuse.

Studies have shown medical marijuana can treat chronic pain, nausea and vomiting in cancer patients and muscle spasms in multiple sclerosis patients.

Currently, 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

“I think it’s time for us to not be the last implementer, but to go ahead and move this forward,” Stollings said.

The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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