West Virginia is likely to become the latest state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. The West Virginia Senate has passed a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients and would establish a system to regulate medical marijuana within the state. A minor change to the bill passed in the House of Delegates with an overwhelming 74-24 vote and is now headed to the governor's desk. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has said that he is "open" to the legalization of medicinal marijuana in the state.
Thursday, during an evening floor session, the House of Delegates concurred with technical changes, including a title amendment. They voted 74-24 to pass the bill.
The bill now goes to Gov. Jim Justice — who has said he is open to medical marijuana — to sign or veto. If Justice signs the bill, West Virginia will become the 29th state with a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
Some proponents of medical marijuana legislation have criticized the current bill, which gives oversight to the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health, because it bans smoking medicinal marijuana, prohibits patients from growing their own plants and sets hefty fees for growers, dispensaries and processors.
West Virginia has been one of the states hit hardest by the opioid abuse epidemic in recent years. There have been numerous studies that show how states with expanded access to marijuana see fewer opioid prescriptions and fewer overdose deaths. It will be curious to see if these figures hold true for West Virginia as well.
More than half of the states permit marijuana for medicinal use, and it is legal for recreational use in eight states.