A West Virginia delegate said Friday he’d like to see lawmakers discuss legalizing medical marijuana, despite the House speaker’s recent declaration that such legislation won’t gain a foothold this year.
During a panel discussion at the West Virginia Associated Press Legislative Lookahead, Kanawha County Democrat Mike Pushkin cited the potential medical benefits of marijuana and the state’s current budget crisis as reasons why West Virginia should join 28 other states that have comprehensive medical marijuana programs.
Gov. Jim Justice said during the 2016 election campaign that he is open to legalizing medical marijuana. But House Speaker Tim Armstead said Thursday the time isn’t right, because President Donald Trump’s administration will likely take a harder line against it.
Last year the House of Delegates tabled a bill that would have lengthened prison terms for people bringing medical marijuana into the state. In 2015, a bill introduced by current Senate President Mitch Carmichael to allow medical marijuana use did not survive.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy estimates the state could raise an estimated $45 million in taxes and save $17 million annually on enforcement if marijuana was legalized. The center’s report released in August also notes marijuana could be a less-addictive alternative than opioid-based painkillers for people suffering from debilitating medical conditions.
After last year’s bill was introduced, Pushkin said he received numerous calls from residents, including some going through chemotherapy.
“If it (marijuana) helps alleviates someone’s pain, if it helps the last days of their lives to be more comfortable, they should have that option,” Pushkin said. “We all want what’s best for the children of our state. That’s why these conversations continue to happen. Half of the country is doing it. We have serious budget issues. It’s a conversation that needs to go on, not just on social media, but under the dome