The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 3, 2013

No legal medical marijuana this year

Legislation headed for study

CHARLESTON — Chronic pain sufferers in West Virginia cannot depend on legally using marijuana for relief, at least for another year.

For the third year in a row, the House of Delegates disallowed a floor vote on a controversial bill presented by Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, by failing to act on it committee.

Instead, the legislation appears destined for a year-long study in interims sessions, but even this is a sign of progress for Manypenny.

“In many states, that’s how the process has gone, because it’s been a controversial issue,” Manypenny said Tuesday.

“It’s a good way to educate the rest of the legislators about the benefits that this could have on the citizens of the state.”

Manypenny can also take heart that this is the first session in which his proposal was granted a public hearing.

About 20 people spoke in favor of his bill last Thursday before Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, and no one opposed it — rare for any controversial measure at a public hearing.

Manypenny said the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project, founded in 1995, was impressed by the speakers at last week’s hearing.

“They said they had never seen anything like this where you just have supporters come out and there is no opposition,” the delegate said.

Among those speaking were physicians, nurses and a former Marine.

“I think the one gentleman that had the numerous brain tumors and surgeries and the Iraqi veteran who had post-traumatic stress disorder had a major impact in his (Perdue’s) decision,” Manypenny said of the proposed interims study.

“You see patients that have suffered and gone through very serious medical conditions that something like this could have helped. It does create that compassion, and that compassion comes out.”

Manypenny proposed the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes only and guidelines that would spell out how physicians are to dispense the drug for people suffering chronic pain.

Eighteen states — none of them in the South — and the nation’s capital have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

In the last two sessions, Manypenny’s bill failed to reach first base in House committees, and he was the lone sponsor. This time, several delegates joined him as co-sponsors, including two conservative Republican lawmakers.

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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