Senators vote to remove ban on edibles in medical marijuana law

Senators today passed a bill changing West Virginia’s original medical marijuana law to allow edible forms.

Senate Bill 590 strikes original language that banned medical cannabis in edible form. Senators passed the bill 26-8. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.

Mike Maroney

West Virginia first passed legislation allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes in 2017. It hasn’t been fully implemented though.

“I think the fact that we don’t have the program up and running already is embarrassing for the state,” said Senate Health Committee Chairman Mike Maroney. “I think we should have had it up and running already.”

Since the law has passed, though, “All this does is allow a different route of entry of the same medicine.” Maroney, a radiologist said, “The goal of this legislation is to help patients who need the help.”

Mike Woelfel

Senator Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, said he sponsored the bill because of the inspiration of friends who are suffering from cancer. He concluded they would benefit from a way to relieve their pain.

Woelfel described friends suffering from cancer who have said, ‘I can’t eat. I don’t have an appetite.'”

“We’re talking about trying to help people that have MS, that have a disease that is going to take their life within a year, that have terminal cancer. These are the people we’re trying to help medically.”

Tom Takubo

Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, said he’s seen patients benefit from medical marijuana in his role as a doctor.

“There are medicinal benefits,” Takubo said.

“In my mind, if there is a regulated, manufactured way of producing that in an edible form that gives them another entry route, that can hopefully alleviate some of their issues, some of their elements, while at the same time allowing them to breathe, not damaging their lung function, there is a balance.”

A provision adopted earlier in committee does prohibit the sale of such edible products in shapes that might be enticing to children, such as humans, animals or fruit.

Robert Karnes

Senator Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, said that is still not limiting enough. He contended any edible product with a sugary or chocolate flavor could attract children.

“Little kids don’t necessarily know. They grab a bag that has this stuff in it,” Karnes said, citing a list of actual candy products meant to sound disgusting, like “Candy Scabs,” “Underpants” or “Ear Wax.”

“There is no form that is not appealing to children whenever it’s chocolate or whenever it’s sweet.”

Woelfel responded, “Senator, I’m glad to see you’re paying attention to public health issues in your comments. Thank you for that.”

Mike Romano

Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, said “Fear-mongering is one of the reasons we’ve not moved forward with the rest of the country on this issue.

“We passed medical cannabis in 2017. Here we are still trying to get it up and running for the benefit of our veterans, combat veterans and so many people who would benefit from it.”

Others disagreed about the wisdom of loosening up the law.

Mike Azinger

Senator Mike Azinger, R-Wood, said he remains concerned that further implementation of medical marijuana is really meant as a way to open the door to recreational marijuana.

“Fundamentally, these marijuana issues, bills, medicinal and so on — I believe are clearly and almost transparently about kicking the door down for recreational marijuana,” Azinger said.

“This is a little piece of this.”

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