CHARLESTON, W. Va. (Mar. 31, 2017) – A West Virginia bill that would legalize medical marijuana and nullify federal marijuana prohibition was approved in the Senate this week.
Sen. Richard Ojeda (D – Logan, 07) introduced Senate Bill 386 (SB386) along with 11 bipartisan co-sponsors to promulgate rules and regulations setting up a functioning medical marijuana program in the Mountain State.
It was approved by the Senate by a 28-6 vote on Wednesday.
Once transmitted to the House, Delegate Michael Folk (R-Berkeley) asked for unanimous consent to dispense with committee references and give the bill immediate consideration. After debate and related motions, delegates voted 54-40 to dispense with committee references, and the bill, Senate Bill 386, was read a first time.
“It’s a personal liberty issue — a personal responsibility issue,” Folk said.
SB386 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. All of this is prohibited under current federal law.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
If SB386 is 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,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
SB386 is due for debate and vote in the House. Passage without amendments will send it directly to the Governor.