After spending their summer recess learning about how other states have done it, West Virginia lawmakers may be ready to consider legalizing medical cannabis.
A state Joint Health Committee (no pun intended) were given copies of the 50-page plan last night in advance of the 2014 legislative session.
The bill, which is currently a “very rough draft” according to it’s author, would allow doctors in the state to recommend medical cannabis for people with certain medical conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer and glaucoma. Charles Roskovensky, chief counsel for the state Health and Human Resources committee, has been charged with writing the language.
According to Roskovensky, patients would be able to possess up to six ounces at a time. The state would authorize and regulate up to five “compassion centers” where patients could purchase medical cannabis. Patients would also be able to cultivate their own supply and grow up to twelve plants at a time. Caregivers would also be allowed to help patients grow their supply.
Some say the bill will be similar in tone to ones proposed the past three years by West Virginia state Delegate Mike Manypenny. Those all failed to reach a vote, including last year when the House Health and Human Resources Committee refused to move the bill forward.
Manypenny told reporters at Wednesday’s hearing that he was confident that there would be a shift in attitudes this time around. He said voters were talking to their representatives and that a two-hour House meeting in September on medical cannabis certainly changed some minds among his colleagues.
He said yesterday that even having the bill heard in the committee meeting itself was a huge leap forward: “This is the first time we’ve had input from lawmakers on the legislation on an official basis.”
Roskovensky cautioned that the bill was still in its infancy and that he would welcome input from lawmakers on the health committee. The committee balked however, and passed off discussion to a later date with only a few questions and comments.
Possession of any amount of cannabis is a misdemeanor in West Virginia punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. Paraphernalia carries the same weight, but is punishable by up to $5,000 in fines. Sale or distribution of any amount is a felony with a mandatory one year in jail and up to $15,000 in fines.