“We’ve got a monumental day,” declared West Virginia Governor Jim Justice as he signed Senate Bill 386—affectionately named the Medical Cannabis Act—into law, making West Virginia the 29th state to officially legalize the use of medical cannabis.
The Medical Cannabis Act will allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to patients suffering from 16 conditions including seizures, cancer, PTSD, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and more. After obtaining permission from their doctor, patients can then apply for their medical cannabis card with approval from the Board of Public Health. Patients will be able to obtain treatment via cannabis pills, oils, vaporizers and topical solutions from licensed growers and dispensaries, however, the sale of cannabis flower for smoking is still prohibited, as is the ability for license holders to grow their own medical cannabis plants.
The bill just narrowly passed with a 6-5 vote on the Senate Health Committee last March. This allowed for SB-386 to then be heard by the House, who passed the bill on April 4 followed by the Senate who voted to pass the bill the following day.
The people of West Virginia were the real MVPs according to former Mountain Party candidate, Jesse Johnson who said, “The people of West Virginia banned together and stood up for one another.” Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan County, who introduced the bill and played a pivotal role in pushing the new legislation forward also mirrored these sentiments saying, “It’s because of the efforts of so many people out there who are passionate about this.”
The people have spoken and the new bill is a step in the right direction. While SB-386 doesn’t cover every freedom cannabis advocates were hoping for, the progress is there, which is a good sign for the future. NORML Executive Director for the West Virginia Chapter said, “It’s a giant step forward for West Virginia, for patient access, for compassion and for people who are suffering, particularly our veterans, and that’s one of the things that’s been a real driver through the past four years.”
West Virginia has seen particularly devastating stats on opioid addiction and the new legislation will potentially combat these numbers. The Center for Disease Control reports that between 2014 and 2015, drug overdoses in West Virginia went up almost 17 percent, making it the highest opioid death rate in the country. The hope here is to eliminate the chance of drug abuse and possibly addiction at large, as cannabis has been proven not to be addictive, and can help wean people off other more harmful substances.