West Virginia Executive Spring 2017 - Page 27

[ politics ] Progress Report 2017 Legislative Session The West Virginia Legislature convened on February 8, facing a laundry list of needs that had to be met in order to help West Virginia recover from the dire economic situation it’s in. The 34 senators and 100 delegates, with a Republican majority, met for 60 days, debating both the issues and the repercussions of the solutions they sought. At the end of the 2017 session, the budget—the most important piece of legislation and, without a doubt, the most difficult to address—went unresolved. Despite this failure, there were some important successes achieved that should be noted. In our 2017 progress report, we took a look at six bills proposed during the recent legislative session intended to have a strong impact on West Virginia and its people. These bills ad- dressed the substance abuse issue ravaging our state, tools to empower our agricultural small businesses, the ongoing debate on standardized testing and education standards, the poten- tial effects of statewide broadband and the benefits of medical marijuana on our aging and unhealthy population. While not all six made it to the governor’s desk for signing, they all offer important elements that will help move the state forward. SB 386 MEDICAL MARIJUANA By Jesse Johnson SENATE: 28-6  HOUSE: 76-24 Senate Bill (SB) 386, the Creating West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, was introduced by Senator Richard Ojeda and was intended to allow West Virginia patients to receive medical cannabis to treat their illnesses without the legal ramifications they have faced in the past. The signing of SB 386 into law provides West Virginians with legal access to this plant for the first time in more than 80 years. The bill was put before the Senate first and passed the Health and Human Resources Committee after Senator Robert Karnes amended the bill to allow patients to each grow two plants. The bill then passed the Judiciary Committee after Lisa Smith, a former state senator, testified about how cannabis could have benefited her dad before he died with Parkinson’s disease and how her mom could benefit now by using it to treat her chronic pain. The Senate passed SB 386 with little floor debate. The bill was then reported to the House. After Speaker Tim Armstead accepted the message from the Senate, Delegate Michael Folk moved to discharge the bill from the committee process. Fifty-four delegates voted in the affirmative. The bill was then laid over before the second reading to give Delegate John Shott, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Delegate Mike Pushkin an opportunity to prepare amendments. Shotts’ amendment passed after much floor debate. The House passed the bill with 76 votes, and the bill went back to the Senate. Senator Ryan Ferns offered a technical amendment, which passed, and the bill returned to the House, where they concurred. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jim Justice on April 19. The Creating West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act will allow patients to use cannabis without legal ramifications. The plant treats numerous health care conditions and has proven suc- cessful in treating catastrophic and terminal illnesses and side effects from other medications or the disease state itself. West Virginia is the 29t ]H\XY\][ۋ˕ՑVPUUKBBH MŒ