West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed into law a bill that allows seriously ill patients to legally access and use medical marijuana.
West Virginia became the 29th U.S. state to allow the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions on Wednesday. Gov. Jim Justice signed into law the Medical Cannabis Act (Senate Bill 386), a comprehensive medical marijuana bill that allows patients suffering from 15 conditions to apply for a card with permission from a licensed physician.
“Our doctors are telling us, this is a pathway to help those people [who are suffering],” said Gov. Justice. “How could you turn your back on that? How could you turn your back on a loved one who is really suffering? To have a vehicle to be able to help, and to turn our back on it and say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’ To me, that’s not listening to the wise, and it’s not being charitable and caring, like we ought to be.”
The new law allows patients to obtain marijuana in the form of pills, oils, topicals, tinctures, liquid, dermal patch, or non-whole plant forms that are administered with a vaporizer. The use of dried marijuana flower and personal plant cultivation are prohibited.
“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,” said Jesse Johnson, executive director of NORML’s West Virginia chapter.
Under the law, the 16 conditions that qualify for medical marijuana include cancer, HIV/AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), spinal cord damage with intractable spasticity, epilepsy, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), intractable seizures, sickle cell anemia, terminally ill, and severe chronic or intractable pain.
There was no indication that the West Virginia Legislature would pursue a medical marijuana bill before the 60-day session. The bill squeaked out of the Senate’s Health Committee on a 6-5 vote on March 24 and passed the Senate 28-6 on March 29. Members of the House, however, voted to make the bill more restrictive. It was amended to exclude the smoking of marijuana, the sale and purchase of edible products, and home cultivation. It then passed the House on April 4 with a 76-24 vote and the Senate voted 26-6 the following day to accept the new version.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, told the West Virginia Metro News that moving the law through the Legislature was an uphill battle.
“It’s because of the efforts of so many people out there who are passionate about this,” Ojeda said on the day of the bill being signed into law. “It was a fight to get this through the Senate. I had to ask Senator [Mitch] Carmichael to intervene to get it put on these committees and when it did it was still tough.”
The law calls for the Bureau of Public Health to begin issuing marijuana patient ID cards on July 1, 2019.