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UPDATE: On April 19, 2017 West Virginia Jim Justice signed SB 386 into law, making West Virginia the 29th state with a comprehensive medical cannabis program. The signing ceremony can be viewed here.
On April 4, 2017, the West Virginia House of Delegates moved one step closer to being the 29th state to legalize medical cannabis (this does not include the 17 CBD only states). The House voted on a bill that would allow doctors to recommend medical cannabis to qualifying patients and set up a system of regulation in West Virginia.
The bill (SB 386) now returns to the Senate for final approval before heading to the desk of Governor Jim Justice (D). The West Virginia Senate has said that it will likely support this version of the bill, and Gov. Justice has indicated that he is "open to medical marijuana."
The version of SB 386 that was passed by the West Virginia House by a 76-24 vote differed significantly from the original Senate Bill. Two amendments to the original bill were introduced by Delegate John Shott (R-Mercer) and Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha). In a 51-48 vote, the House approved the Shott amendment.
If the Senate approves the bill, and the Governor signs the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Law into law, many West Virginians who suffer would have the door opened to access to medical cannabis. Patients who suffer from debilitating diseases, chronic pain, severe nausea, PTSD, severe muscle spasms and other conditions would be able to use cannabis as medicine upon recommendation of their doctor. The adoption of a medical cannabis bill in West Virginia would further highlight the changing attitudes towards medical cannabis.
Unfortunately, despite the positive news of a medical cannabis bill passing the West Virginia house, patients will still have to wait to receive medicine. Patient identification cards would not be issued until July 1, 2019.
SB 386 prohibits patients from smoking cannabis only allowing for pills, oils, topical forms, vaporization, nebulization, tinctures or liquid-form delivery methods. It also prohibits patients from growing their own plants and requires steep annual fees for growers and processors of medical cannabis. SB 386 also greatly limits the number of growers allowed in the state.
The Bottom Line
The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Law is a long way from perfect and could be well served by some improvements. But for a state that had no program to speak of in 2016, it is an important step forward towards ensuring safe access to medical cannabis. Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) said the amended version of his original bill wasn't what he wanted, but "[i]t's still something positive for the state of West Virginia and something that will provide relief for thousands of people."