The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 27, 2013

Medical marijuana use bill gets first-ever hearing

CHARLESTON — Fear is not a justifiable reason to avoid controversy under the Capitol dome, says House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, and mindful of that, he is giving the public a chance to speak on the medical use of marijuana.

Come Thursday afternoon, Perdue is opening the House chamber to a one-hour public hearing on a long-running bill, authored initially by Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor.

For three sessions now, Manypenny has sought to legalize the use of marijuana to alleviate pain, and the first two times to the plate, he stood in the batter’s box alone.

Now, he has a number of co-sponsors, including two Republicans — Ray Canterbury of Greenbrier County and Larry Kump of Berkeley County.

“Part of the problem we have in the legislative process is fear tends to keep us from doing things that over a long period tend to be very productive,” Perdue, D-Wayne, said Tuesday.

“You can’t simply allow fear to be the thing that you make all your judgments by. There has to be some reasoned expression of conflict, and we haven’t seen that reasoned expression of conflict.”

Manypenny has advised Perdue that upwards of 100 people have asked to have time allotted to speak on the bill in the public hearing.

This is the first time a House committee has agreed to take a look at Manypenny’s legislation.

“It’s becoming evident to me that there’s more and more talk, a lot of discussion, a lot of hubris out there, about it,” Perdue said. “So I felt like it was a really good idea. Let’s gauge the sense of the public about that bill. We’ve never done that.”

From the public hearing, Perdue said he wants to “try to draw where the interest levels lie and whether or not it’s something that can be passed.”

Perdue said he hopes to get a number of questions answered.

“Where are the issues?” he said. “Who are the opponents? Why are they the opponents? This is one of those things where it’s in very formative stages in West Virginia, in this session, so there’s no time like now. Let’s discuss it in a very meaningful way.”

Perdue said the state needs to deal with substance issues across all venues in West Virginia.

“This is just sort of an expression of that,” he added.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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