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Medical marijuana bill scheduled for second reading in House Monday

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —┬áMembers of the state House of Delegates are scheduled to take up the bill that would legalize medical marijuana in West Virginia during Monday’s floor session.

On Friday, the House approved a request from House Judiciary Chairman John Shott who asked for an additional two days to review the bill.

“Not all medical marijuana laws are the same,” Shott explained. “There are some that are much more aggressive. I think this one is much more aggressive — the bill we have — and I think the members ought to be able to consider one that’s a little more cautious.”

The bill (SB 386) would create The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act. It will be on second reading, amendment stage, during Monday’s floor session.

The legislation establishing a 16-member West Virginia Medical Cannabis Commission made up of medical professionals, law enforcement officers and others to oversee a state medical marijuana program.

As proposed, that commission would create patient ID cards, set fees, craft regulations for the legal production and distribution of marijuana and determine conditions where physicians could recommend it for medical usage.

Last Wednesday, the Senate approved it with a 28-6 vote. By Friday, it was on 2nd reading in the House following a Thursday move by a majority of House members to bring the bill straight to the floor. Shott was given time over the weekend to come up with proposed amendments to be considered Monday. House Speaker Tim Armstead is on record as being opposed to the bill.

Matt Simon, a West Virginia native and West Virginia University graduate who now works with the Marijuana Policy Project, said, for many patients, medical marijuana is a safer alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs.

“I just hope the Speaker understands there are patients all over West Virginia that have been prescribed opioid pain medications, that have medicine cabinets that are full of Oxycontin and Percocet and Vicodin and fentanyl and these drugs are killing people,” he said.

“So many patients have found that it (medical marijuana) works when prescription medicines don’t or when prescription medicines produce intolerable side effects.”

Marijuana helped Russell Williams, a cancer survivor and patient advocate from Nitro.

“I feel like marijuana saved my life. Going through chemotherapy, I thought I understood what nausea was and vertigo and I had no idea,” he said.

“I would leave the hospital with vertigo so bad I couldn’t open my eyes and it was hard to walk myself out of the hospital and, within 30 seconds of the first hit, all of that would right itself and I could function normally.”

But Armstead said he believes “there are legal and medical issues that haven’t been answered.”

Earlier in the session, an attempt to amend the legalization of medicinal marijuana into a House bill spawned hours of debate on the House floor before the amendment was ultimately rejected.

In all, 28 states and Washington, D.C. have medical marijuana laws.

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