CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The medical marijuana bill that passed the state Senate Wednesday is now before the full House of Delegates following a procedural move Thursday evening at the state capitol.
In a move that rarely works, members were able to bypass the wishes of leadership and move the bill (SB 386) straight to the floor, skipping the committee process.
Leadership planned to send the bill to a pair of House committees, Health and Judiciary with just more than a week left in the regular session, but Delegate Mike Folk (R-Berkeley) made a motion to put the bill on the floor. Following an hour long debate, the House approved the motion 54-40 with 35 Democrats and 19 Republicans voting in favor. The bill was then read a first time.
The measure is scheduled for second reading, amendment stage, Friday.
Several delegates said they had received dozens of phone calls and emails to support the bill following its passage in the Senate.
“My phone has been blowing up and I know that everybody else’s phones have been blowing up. Look, we’ve been hiding too long from this issue,” Delegate Mike Caputo (D-Marion) said.
Several delegates tried to argue the bill would be fully vetted in the two committees but others said the Senate has already vetted the bill and sending it to the committees in the House would essentially kill the legislation.
“As much as I hate to have to do it this way,” Delegate Jordan Hill (R-Nicholas) said. “It is my firm belief that we are not going to see this come to this floor.” (Hear Hill’s comments above)
Hill later said the vote was not about legalizing medical cannabis for drug dealers on the streets but for seniors in his district suffering from neuropathy who have tried opioids without much success and for the child lying in bed suffering from loss of appetite because of cancer treatments.
“I know may district wants this. I know the rest of the state wants it,” Hill said.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) said he was concerned about part of the bill that says growers can pay the prescribing physician.
“How all of that works I don’t understand but that sets off an alarm for me. We in southern West Virginia have seen what’s happened with pill mills,” Shott said.
The bill—the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act — would create a state cannabis commission that would be responsible for developing policies and regulations to make medical cannabis available to qualifying patients.
Registered physicians would be allowed to prescribe marijuana for patients suffering from a list of conditions, including chronic diseases, muscle spasms and seizures.
The bill is currently on second reading on the House’s active calendar. The House floor session is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday.