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Legislators got their first look at a bill that would legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in the state during interim meetings in Charleston. A controversial proposal, lawmakers are taking their time scrutinizing the legislation before they even decide to present it to the full legislature for consideration when they convene for the 2014 Regular Session in January.
The comprehensive bill is a compilation of medical marijuana laws from multiple other states and sets forth these five provisions:
1. Creation of a Patient Registry
The patient registry will be maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Resources. Once a doctor has written a prescription that certifies marijuana will be helpful, the patient then takes that prescription to the DHHR to register and obtain an identification card.
2. Creation of Compassion Centers
Compassion Centers are to West Virginia what dispensaries are in other states, they supply marijuana to patients with a valid identification card from the state DHHR. West Virginia will also allow persons with a valid out of state identification card to purchase from these dispensaries. The centers will be selected by the department through a selective bidding process and only five will be licensed in the first year the bill takes effect.
3. Limits to Possession
The bill limits the amount each patient is able to possess to 6 ounces, 12 seedlings and 12 mature plants. It also limits medical caregivers, like in home caregivers or hospice workers, to oversee the medicinal marijuana amounts of up to five patients, each with the same individual limit.
The draft legislation includes a list of ailments the state will recognize as treatable by medicinal marijuana. Those include: cancer, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer ’s disease and PTSD.
The legislation differs from that of other states on how medical marijuana would be taxed. Taxes from the purchase at compassion centers would go into a special fund allocated toward substance abuse treatment in communities and drug prevention in schools.
Concerns raised by legislators with the bill included the possibilities of creating fake ID’s and federal prosecution.
The Justice Department under the Obama Administration has said they will not pursue medical marijuana cases in states where the medicinal use is made legal; however, its use is still against federal law and some state lawmakers worry when a new administration takes over the White House that stance will change.