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West Virginia Preparing To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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The Mountain State is preparing to legalize medical marijuana. The Senate and the House of Delegates of West Virginia have approved SB 386, which establishes a West Virginia Medical Cannabis Commission. Governor Jim Justice is expected to sign the bill. That commission will have sixteen members. The members of the commission include the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources, the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, and the West Virginia Treasurer. The bill grants the governor the authority to appoint thirteen other people, including:

  • Two members of the public who support the program
  • One member designated by the West Virginia Association of Alcoholism and Drug Counselors
  • Three physicians licensed in the state
  • One nurse practitioner with experience in hospice care
  • One pharmacist
  • One scientist with cannabis experience
  • One representative of the West Virginia State Bar
  • One representative of Law Enforcement
  • An attorney who is knowledgeable about medical cannabis laws in the United States
  • An individual with experience in horticulture

The West Virginia bill sets out a rather meager list of qualifying conditions. The conditions are as follows:

  • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that results in a patient being admitted into hospice or receiving palliative care; or
  • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment of a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that produces:
    • Cachexia, anorexia, or wasting syndrome;
    • Severe or chronic pain that does not find effective relief through standard pain medication;
    • Severe nausea;
    • Seizures; or
    • Severe or persistent muscle spasms.

Other states that have legalized medical marijuana have included PTSD, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, Crohn’s Disease, Cancer, and even Autism. Rather than creating a list of qualifying diseases and conditions, West Virginia has chosen to focus on the treatable symptoms. It is clear by their wording and the addition of an expert in hospice care to the Commission that West Virginia’s focus is on end of life, and palliative care. This is an interesting choice when one considers that West Virginia has the highest opioid overdose death rate in the entire country. That may be why the elected officials chose to focus on symptoms rather than conditions.

The bill authorizes the Medical Cannabis Commission to authorize other conditions if “the symptoms reasonably can be expected to be relieved by the medical use of cannabis.” Time will tell if the Commission chooses to act within the authority granted to them to expand the list.

The bill does require licensure for growers, dispensaries, and processors. The commission has until September 15, 2018, to promulgate rules related to the establishment of a medical cannabis program. Those rules should set forth the requirements to receive a license.

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