Early on in the legislative session, we saw two separate medical marijuana bills introduced in West Virginia – one of which never made it out of House committee hearings. But the Senate bill was just approved by a 28-6 vote at the floor, which sends the bill over to the House of Delegates for review. Even though there is a chance for delays in the House, having the bill get this far is still a victory that gives hope to patients who are either waiting and suffering, or waiting and medicating illegally.
“Thousands of seriously ill West Virginians are anxiously waiting for their lawmakers to do the right thing and pass this bill,” Simon said. “They shouldn’t have to suffer or be treated like criminals while patients in 28 other states can legally access medical marijuana.”
Senate Bill 386 would create a 16 member panel called the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Commission that would be made up of medical professionals, law enforcement and government officials that would be in charge of setting up the regulations and overseeing the industry – should the bill pass. The commission’s main tasks would be to issue patient ID cards, set fees and create regulations pertaining to the cultivation and distribution of the plant – as well as determine which conditions will qualify for medical marijuana use.
Unlike the House bill that never made it to the floor for a vote, the Senate bill does not provide a specific list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana – listing only a few and then specifying any chronic or debilitating medical condition, which is open to interpretation by the Medical Cannabis Commission that would be appointed. While this does leave the possibility open for a lot of patients to be allowed access to medical marijuana, it also opens the door for deserving patients to be denied access for one reason or another.
“I wish I could properly put it into words,” Rusty Williams said. “I don’t know how to describe it — to know that something got me through the most hopeless I ever felt in my life … to know there’s an illegal flower that can get you through that.”
Regardless of what the future could hold for specific conditions to be covered under SB386, just the fact that lawmakers are finally supporting a medical marijuana bill is something that many patients are grateful for – especially after years and years of waiting for this sort of legislation to gain any real support. Hopefully the House committees won’t choose to stall their decisions when it comes to this bill, allowing it a fair chance at a full vote at the House floor.