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Steve Novotney Says, "Facts Are Facts"

It's not about getting high because it has nothing to do with the THC that provides the buzz when smoked.

What medicinal marijuana is about is the provided relief without chemical addiction. It's really that simple. For example, cannabis can be transitioned into oils used for cooking foods that can provide solace from chronic pain, seizures, glaucoma, mental illnesses, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Several editorial boards across the state have penned editorials in support of medicinal marijuana, including the Charleston Gazette-Mail when it published a piece a little more than a week ago featuring a headline that read, "Please Don't Let West Virginia Be Last in the Pot Line."

The editorial was short and sweet while stating a few facts that should make sense to people in a state suffering from a ravaging heroin epidemic that knows no boundaries when attacking each gender, every race, and all social levels no matter a person's age.

It stated: "Four more states — California, Nevada, Massachusetts, and Maine — decriminalized pot for recreational use. Along with four previous states that did likewise, nearly one-fourth of the U.S. population now lives where the mild narcotic can be smoked for fun.

Further, four other states — Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota, and Montana — legalized medical marijuana to ease suffering of cancer patients and other victims. That makes 29 states and the District of Columbia with medical pot.

All these places will reap large government revenue as cannabis is licensed and taxed. All these places will save more money that previously was wasted on arresting, prosecuting, and jailing users."

Instead, in West Virginia, Republican lawmakers proposed last winter legislation that would have increased the mandatory jail sentence from five to 15 years for transporting medicinal marijuana to the Mountain State. Del. Ryan Weld, who was recently elected to a Senate position, was a sponsor on that bill.

"I can fully appreciate and understand why we want to stop people from bringing heroin and cocaine and drugs that can kill you in one shot into our state," said Del. Bill Flanigan of Monongalia County on the House floor last March. Flanigan was a cancer patient at the time of the speech. "Why we needed to include a drug that is clearly being used for medical use in this bill and cost somebody five to 15 years of their life is beyond me."

Flanigan admitted to his fellow lawmakers that day that he had crossed a line and violated state law, but that's because medical marijuana also can provide an appetite for those enduring chemotherapy. That floor speech, said Ohio County's Del. Shawn Fluharty (D-3rd), may have awakened West Virginia after several years of delegates and senators dismissing the proposal as another chapter in the reefer madness mindset.

"When I traveled to Charleston for my first regular session as an elected delegate the attitude was to ignore it because of all of the preconceived beliefs about marijuana," he conceded. "But everyone in that room listened to every word Del. Flanigan said during his floor speech, and I think he changed a lot of minds. Whether it is part of leadership's agenda for the next regular session, who knows? But it should be.

"The facts are the facts, and I all I can do is hope that the people serving in the House and the Senate listen to them," he continued. "It's really a win-win because our state is No. 1 when it comes to overdose deaths and addiction, and medicinal marijuana also could help with the budget crisis we have in our state right now. When you're looking at a possible $300 million deficit, I would think everyone serving should be looking for a new way to generate revenue."

One would think, especially after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin was forced two weeks ago to order yet another across-the-board budget cut to shave $60 million, but the way it works will control whether or not the conversation is even entertained beyond a burial of committee assignments. Fluharty, Flanigan, or any other delegates in the House can write it and get it sponsored in bipartisan fashion, but if the Speaker doesn't approve, it gets interred.

That is exactly what has happened for the past decade as former lawmaker Mike Manypenny proposed the legalization of medicinal in each of his final seven years in the House before he was defeated in the 49th District two years ago, and why Del. Mike Pushkin, a Democrat from Kanawha County, doesn't expect much attention to his May proposal that would make marijuana legal, period. He told reporters he didn't expect it to advance very far, but Pushkin does hope it initiates a statewide conversation because of the realized revenue generation in Colorado since its legislature approved recreational use in 2014. Thus far, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue, cannabis sales have provided nearly $200 million the first two years and this year's projection is another $140 million, and there's no telling how much has been saved by police departments, court systems, and prisons

Pushkin gathered members of both parties as sponsors, including three Republicans and a pair of Democrats, but it is highly unlikely enough Senate and House members would support it right now. But medicinal marijuana?

For the future, let's hope so.

Categories: Commentary