Category Archives: WV

West Virginia

Examining West Virginia’s Medical Marijuana Law

FILE - This April 15, 2017 file photo shows marijuana plants for sale at the ShowGrow dispensary a medical marijuana provider in downtown Los Angeles. This year is poised to be a big one for legalized marijuana, with California and other states that recently approved recreational pot coming online. Yet uncertainty over the Trump administration's intents toward pot enforcement has created at least partial paralysis in those states on public consumption, licensing and other issues. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel,File)


WHEELING — Medical marijuana is on its way to West Virginia, although it will be more than two years before it arrives and doctors may start prescribing it for patients.

A bill legalizing the use of medical cannibis has been signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice, but the drug won’t be available to users until July 2019. That’s when a newly created West Virginia Bureau of Health starts to issue patient identification cards to those with ailments meeting qualifications for use.

Patients will be charged $50 for the identification card, but the charge can be waived under instances of financial hardship.

The cannabis prescribed to qualifying patients won’t come in a leaf form that can be smoked or ingested. Instead, users will receive the drug in the form pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquid and non-whole plant forms for administration through vaporization.

And the final version of the medical marijuana legislation approved by the West Virginia Legislature prohibits the home cultivation of marijuana by medical cannabis users.

Under the law, the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health may issue as many as 10 permits to businesses seeking to be growers of medical marijuana; as many as 10 permits to those wishing to be processors of the cannabis; and as many as 30 dispensary permits. Medical marijuana will be considered as a medical drug by the state, and its users will not have to pay sales tax when purchasing it. There will, however, be a 10-percent tax on sales from growers/processors to dispensaries.

West Virginia is the 29th state to pass a medical marijuana law, and it joins a growing trend among states thought of as having conservative, traditional values, according to information provided by the Marijuana Policy Project.

During the past year, six states have approved medical cannabis legislation, with West Virginia and neighboring Ohio and Pennsylvania passing their measures through Republican legislatures. Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota are the others who have new medical marijuana laws, and all six states voted for President Donald Trump last year.

Medical Benefits

Tetrahydrocannabino, commonly known as THC, is the chemical compound in marijuana found to have medicinal benefits in treating chronic pain resulting from migraines, cancer treatment or glaucoma.

It also has been prescribed for muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and seizures, and Crohn’s disease.

Delegate Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, pushed in the House for passage of the medical marijuana bill. He assisted House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, in crafting a reworked version of the legislation first passed in the Senate.

The Shott-Zatezalo amendment offered as replacement legislation made it illegal to dispense marijuana in dry leaf or plant form to a patient, and directed that medicines from marijuana come in the form of patches, pills or potions.

The Shott-Zatezalo version of the legislation was ultimately passed by the Legislature and signed into law.

Zatezalo said he had consulted his daughter, Jennifer, a doctor at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, on the matter. She confirmed medical cannabis is sometimes prescribed at the center and other hospitals for chronic pain.

“I have no reason to doubt them … ,” Zatezalo said. “But I wanted to craft a better bill. I thought the one we had was loosely written. … What we came up with gave people what they needed medically. It is a little more controlled, with the Bureau of (Public) Health having oversight. There are people out there hurting, and the evidence is mounting that it has medical value.”

Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Wetzel, a medical doctor, was among those voting against medical marijuana legislation. He did not return messages seeking comment.

Legal Questions

Also voting against the medical marijuana legislation in West Virginia was Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, who also serves as an assistant prosecutor prosecuting drug crimes.

“The reason I voted against it had nothing to do with my being an assistant prosecutor,” he said. “I just know it (marijuana usage) is still illegal per the federal government. I know they stopped enforcing the law during the Obama administration. … But if the federal government wanted to make it illegal again tomorrow, there would be a lot of people running afoul of the law, and a lot of legal consequences.”

Weld cited the “supremacy clause” in the U.S. Constitution which gives federal laws supremacy over those passed by states.

Questions about the law were posed to the office of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

“At this time, we are reviewing the new law and any legal issues that may arise for the State of West Virginia,” said Curtis Johnson, press secretary for Morrisey.

Medical marijuana legislation was supported by Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, also an attorney.

“The feds have made it clear they will not pursue states that have legalized medical marijuana,” he said. “In fact, the recent budget in Congress did not allocate a single dollar to allow Attorney General Jeff Sessions to target those states.”



Remove Marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act & End Cannabis Prohibition


Petition by Deschedule 2016

To be delivered to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama

Issue an Executive Order directing the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to cease enforcing codes under the Controlled Substances Act relating to marijuana and its cannabinoids.
Pass legislation to:
• Amend the Controlled Substances Act to remove marijuana and its cannabinoids from the schedule of controlled substances;
• Remove restrictions for import and export of marijuana, including viable seed;
• Transfer authority for cannabis regulation and licensing to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), designating it as an agricultural crop;
• Amend Section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 to remove the “for research purposes only” provision to permit for legal personal and commercial hemp cultivation nationwide.
Join Canada, Mexico and other countries to call for the end of global marijuana prohibition during the United Nation’s General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, April 19-21, 2016 in New York.



WV: Legislation to legalize marijuana discussed

Supporters argue financial, medical benefits of halting prohibition

In a paper, WVU law student Kaitlin L. Hillenbrand says repealing marijuana prohibition will result in “numerous benefits to the state.”

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislation to legalize marijuana use, especially for medical purposes, is being discussed again in West Virginia.

Today, sale of medical marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, D.C. Today, 30 percent of Americans live in states where marijuana is legal in some form.

On Nov. 6, popular votes in Colorado and Washington state legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Supporters of marijuana legislation in West Virginia back various reform laws they say could offer people medical help, create new state tax revenues, cut prison costs and enhance an industry already booming underground.

West Virginia’s state prisons are becoming increasingly overcrowded and costly.

Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, said the bill he is backing in the Legislature focuses on medical, not recreational, uses of marijuana.

“I do support decriminalizing small amounts for people getting caught. It would reduce the impact on our prison system. But my main goal is to legalize the ability of doctors to recommend it for a patient for a chronic ailment.”

Today, Manypenny said, “80 percent of our state’s prison population is there directly or indirectly related to charges of substance abuse.

“Legalizing marijuana could also spur economic development, Manypenny said. “We could export it to other states that approve medical marijuana. Ohio and Pennsylvania may also be close to getting something passed.”

Brad Douglas, the Department of Corrections’ director of research and planning, did not return phone calls Friday asking how the state estimates costs, and jail times, resulting from arrests related to marijuana possession.

Financial benefits

Kaitlin L. Hillenbrand, a student at the West Virginia University College of Law, recently wrote a paper titled “State Deregulation of Marijuana Act. White Paper: A Bill Concerning the Decriminalization and Regulation of the Marijuana Industry.”

In her paper, Hillenbrand says repealing the prohibition of marijuana will result in “numerous benefits to the state,” including “over $72 million in savings and revenue in the first year, and that number will very likely increase each year. Law enforcement resources would free up to solve serious crimes.”

Those benefits, Hillenbrand estimates, would include $29.6 million in revenues from a 6 percent sales tax on marijuana and taxpayer savings of $42.6 million by cutting marijuana arrests.

Hillenbrand also questions the effectiveness of marijuana arrests.

In 2011, one American was arrested every 42 seconds for marijuana possession. Yet marijuana use rates continued to rise, according to an FBI study.

On Nov. 15, Hillenbrand discussed her work about the legalization of marijuana with some members of the state Senate and House of Delegates.

Hillenbrand said she drafted a legislative bill, part of her paper, on behalf of Ken Robidoux — a medicinal-marijuana patient originally from California who suffers from seizure disorders.

Hillenbrand wrote her paper for a class taught by former WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr.

“The bill decriminalizes marijuana and gives the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission regulatory authority over marijuana,” she said.

Hillenbrand said she modeled her bill after those that passed in Colorado and Washington last month, a model bill by the Marijuana Policy Project and the West Virginia statute that ended alcohol prohibition in the state in June 1933.

Hillenbrand hopes that West Virginia residents who favor the legalization of marijuana for either medical and/or recreational purposes express their opinions to their legislators.

Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, is working with Hillenbrand.

Simon praised Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international organization of criminal-justice professionals founded in 1999 that criticizes “the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies.”


$1.5B worth of marijuana confiscated in Appalachia



By Roger Alford on December 05, 2012

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies confiscated more than $1.5 billion worth of marijuana this year in central Appalachia, a region where widespread unemployment may be turning some people to pot farming.

Ed Shemelya, head of marijuana eradication in the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, released preliminary figures Tuesday showing that aerial spotters guided ground crews to more than 760,000 plants during the 2012 growing season in the mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

They also arrested more than 400 growers in the region.

Shemelya said nearly 430,000 of this year’s marijuana plants were found in Kentucky, a substantial increase for that state over 2011. The figures showed more than 192,000 plants were confiscated in West Virginia and more than 147,000 in Tennessee.

The overall haul was down from last year, when law enforcement eradicated 1.1 million plants valued at more than $2 billion. But the total for this year is expected to rise. The final tally will be available by mid-January.

The Appalachian region, a haven for moonshiners during Prohibition, has a near-perfect climate for marijuana cultivation, plus remote forests that help growers camouflage their crops.

Marijuana can be lucrative, at least for those who don’t get caught. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates the street value of an average mature plant at $2,000.

Shemelya said counties where the most marijuana was eradicated tended to be the ones that are struggling economically.

"I think economic conditions in Appalachia drive the marijuana trade, and will continue to do so until such time that we start to see a recovery in Appalachia," he said.

Double-digit unemployment rates are common in coalfield counties in Kentucky. At last count, Bell, Harlan, Jackson, Knott, Leslie, Magoffin and Letcher counties had unemployment rates ranging from 13 percent to 15.5 percent.

The federal Office of Drug Control Policy concentrates resources in the Appalachian region because so much marijuana is grown there — often in small plots of fewer than 100 plants that can easily be tended by a single grower. Only California produces more of the clandestine crop than Appalachia.

"Our climate, hydrology, soil are ideal for cultivating cannabis," Shemelya said. "You can’t find a better mix for cultivating cannabis anywhere in the country."