West Virginia's 2019 legislative session began yesterday, and several bills are expected to be introduced in the coming days to reform marijuana laws, including a bill to improve the medical cannabis law, a decriminalization bill, and an adult-use legalization bill.
Legislative leaders have already begun discussing possible reforms, including ways of addressing the banking issue that has prevented rollout of the medical cannabis program, but we must help convince legislators that there is an urgent need to take action.
After you write your legislators, please forward this message to your family and friends!
Learn where candidates stand on marijuana policy before you vote on Tuesday, November 6!
West Virginia’s general election will take place next Tuesday, November 6. The outcome of state legislative races will be critical in determining the future of marijuana policy in West Virginia. There are also strong contrasts between the candidates in races for U.S Congress:
• State Sen. Richard Ojeda (D), who championed West Virginia’s medical cannabis bill and strongly supports federal reforms, is running for an open Congressional seat in District 3. His opponent, Del. Carol Miller (R), voted for the medical cannabis bill, but she also voted to dramatically restrict it, and she won’t commit to supporting federal medical cannabis legislation.
• District 1 candidate Kendra Fershee (D) has expressed strong support for medical cannabis. Her opponent, incumbent Rep. David McKinley (R), has not supported marijuana policy reforms.
• In District 2, incumbent Rep. Alex Mooney (R) has voted to protect state medical cannabis programs from federal interference. His opponent, Talley Sergent (D), has expressed strong support for medical cannabis.
Before you go to the polls, please take time to review MPP’s voter guide, which includes survey responses, votes cast by incumbent legislators, and candidates’ public statements.
After you read our West Virginia voter guide, please share it with your friends and remind them that next Tuesday is Election Day!
Today, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill making limited improvements to the medical cannabis program. HB 4345 would increase the number of licenses available for growers and dispensaries, and it would allow patients to pre-register for the program. Unfortunately, the bill would also add onerous restrictions on physicians that would discourage them from certifying patients. You can read a summary of the bill here.
If you are a resident of West Virginia, please call your state senators today and urge them to amend and pass HB 4345.
West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda, who championed last year’s medical cannabis legislation, has put forward a new bill for 2018 seeking to make the medical cannabis program more accessible for patients.
SB 487 would make several positive changes to the law, including allowing patients and caregivers to grow their own limited supply of cannabis. It would also eliminate onerous restrictions on doctors and make it easier for patients to qualify. You can read a summary of the bill here.
The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Board is also expected to consider changes to the current law later this month.
The West Virginia medical cannabis bill officially took effect on Wednesday. Unfortunately, however, most or all patients will not be able to benefit from the law until July 1, 2019, unless something changes.
The law would allow the regulatory agency to make agreements with other states to allow terminally ill cancer patients to buy medical cannabis in another state, but it is not clear yet if that will happen.
For details on how the law will work, including who can qualify for the program, check out our summary.
On a positive note, the members of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board were announced last week, and the first meetings are expected to be scheduled soon. The Advisory Board is important because it will provide an opportunity to discuss improvements to the policy.
West Virginia is on the verge of becoming the next state with an effective medical marijuana law!
The bill received final approval in the West Virginia Legislature on Thursday and is headed to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice. He has publicly expressed support for legal access to medical marijuana and is expected to sign the bill into law, making West Virginia the 29th state to adopt an effective medical marijuana law.
SB 386, titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, charges the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries. Patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions will be allowed to use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. This differs from the original version of the bill and the medical marijuana programs in most other states. A summary of SB 386 is available at http://bit.ly/2nbUAq3.
MPP issued the following statement in a press release:
“Some of the House amendments to the bill are concerning, but it still has the potential to provide relief to thousands of seriously ill WestVirginians,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “We commend the Legislature for passing this compassionate and much-needed legislation, and we encourage Gov. Justice to sign it into law.
“This will be an important and, in some cases, life-saving program,” Simon said. “It is critical that the state implement it promptly. We are committed to working with officials to make sure the program is as effective as possible and to get it up and running in a timely fashion. Many patients cannot afford to wait much longer.
A bill that would allow patients with certain debilitating conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it was approved by the West Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday. SB 386 passed 76-24 on third reading after being revised on second reading.
SB 386 was originally introduced by Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-Logan) in the Senate, where it was approved 28-6 last week. The House version of the bill, which is titled the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, would charge the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries, while the Senate version would set up a 16-member independent commission. Under the amended House bill, patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions could use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. This differs from the Senate version of the bill and most of the other state medical marijuana programs.
MPP issued the following statement in a press release:
“The Legislature has answered the prayers of many seriously ill West Virginians and their families,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “This could be life-saving legislation for some patients. We commend House members for working diligently to make sure it passes this year, but we urge the Legislature to continue efforts to make sure the program truly works for the seriously ill and to ensure it does not unnecessarily drive up costs.”
Compassionate legislators in the West Virginia House and Senate introduced bills that would create a medical marijuana program in the state. In the House, Delegate Mike Pushkin and 11 co-sponsors introduced HB 2677, a comprehensive medical marijuana bill titled the “Patient Freedom Act.” In the upper chamber, Senator Richard Ojeda and 11 co-sponsors introduced SB 386, which would make medical marijuana legal and create a Medical Cannabis Commission to administer the program.
Unfortunately, House Speaker Tim Armstead has made it clear that he opposes medical marijuana. Your delegates and senators need to hear from you that this issue is important so they will be motivated to help convince the speaker that a medical marijuana law would be good for West Virginia.
If you are a West Virginia resident, please contact your state legislators today and tell them it’s time to move forward with a compassionate medical marijuana program.
The West Virginia Legislature failed to reform its marijuana policies in the 2015-2016 legislative session, primarily because House Speaker Tim Armstead continues to oppose even the most modest, incremental reforms. Fortunately, now that a special session has been called, five delegates have decided this is an opportunity to raise the issue of marijuana legalization. Del. Mike Pushkin (D-Charleston) and a bipartisan group of four co-sponsors have introduced HB 114, which would make marijuana legal on a limited basis in West Virginia.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail published an editorial praising these legislators' efforts, calling legalization an "excellent idea." The Gazette-Mail noted that the bill "has no chance" of passing in the special session, but it still presents an important opportunity to raise the issue with elected officials.
If you are a West Virginia resident, please take a moment to contact your delegates and senators today and urge them to consider the benefits of ending marijuana prohibition.
A new poll was released Monday showing increased support for allowing medical marijuana in West Virginia. The poll, which was commissioned by MPP and conducted by Public Policy Polling, found that 56% of Mountain State residents support passing a medical marijuana law (up from 53% last January), and only 34% oppose laws that would allow patients to obtain and use medical marijuana (down from 40%). Results are available here.
If you live in West Virginia, share these poll results with your state legislators today!
The West Virginia Legislature begins its 2014 general session Wednesday. Unfortunately, the Joint Committee on Health decided to conclude its offseason study without voting on the medical marijuana issue. It appears that, for political reasons, passing a medical marijuana law may be a difficult goal to achieve in an election year such as 2014. With elections coming up later this year, it is particularly important that legislators hear from you and other supporters today. They need to understand that public opinion has dramatically changed, and that most West Virginians support allowing patients to have safe, legal access to medical marijuana.