West Virginia Bills Would Legalize Medical Marijuana; Foundation to Block Federal Prohibition

CHARLESTON, W. Va. (Mar. 9, 2017) – Two bills introduced in the West Virginia legislature would legalize medical marijuana in the state. If signed into law, the legislation would take another step toward nullifying the unconstitutional federal prohibition on cannabis in practice and effect.

Del. Mike Pushkin (D – Kanawha, 37) introduced House Bill 2677 (HB2677) and Sen. Richard Ojeda (D – Logan, 07) introduced Senate Bill 386 (SB386) along with 11 bipartisan co-sponsors. Each bill would promulgate rules and regulations to set up a functioning medical marijuana program in the Mountain State.

HB2677 would give access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from the following qualifying conditions:

"(A) Cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction to opiates or amphetamines or the treatment of these conditions;

(B) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: Cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe or chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; or

(C) Any other medical condition or its treatment added by the department, as provided in section six of this article."

Medical marijuana patients would be allowed to designate a caregiver under HB2677, which would permit another individual the legal authority to grow the plant on behalf of the qualifying patient, provided they were aged 21-or-older. Dispensaries, called “registered cannabis distribution center” in HB2677, would be permitted to operate as well provided that they comply with the tax and regulatory structure established under the legislation.

SB386 contains many similar provisions as HB2677. The legislation would give access to medical marijuana for patients suffering from the following qualifying conditions:

"(A) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that results in a patient being admitted into hospice or receiving palliative care; or

(B) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment of a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that produces:

(i) Cachexia, anorexia, or wasting syndrome;

(ii) Severe or chronic pain that does not find effective relief through standard pain medication;

(iii) Severe nausea;

(iv) Seizures; or

(v) Severe or persistent muscle spasms."

Medical marijuana patients would be allowed to designate a caregiver under SB386, which would permit another individual the legal authority to grow the plant on behalf of the qualifying patient. Dispensaries would be permitted to operate as well provided that they comply with the tax and regulatory structure established under the legislation.

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as HB2677 and SB386 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

If HB2677 and SB386 are signed into law, it would partially remove one layer of law prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in West Virginia, but federal prohibition would remain in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While these West Virginia bills would not alter federal law, they would take a step toward nullifying in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing the state laws, West Virginia would remove some of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

West Virginia could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” public policy analyst Michael Boldin said.

NEXT UP

HB2677 must be approved by the House Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse Committee while SB386 must be approved by the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. The committees must approve the bills before they can receive full House and Senate votes.