"This legislation is going to benefit countless West Virginia patients and families for years to come", said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University.
Smokable and pre-made edible forms of marijuana are not permitted in the law and marijuana plant cultivation for personal, medical use is prohibited by unlicensed growers.
Heroin use goes down in states where marijuana is legal, according to several research papers.
Oversight for implementation falls to the Department of Health and Human Resources' Bureau for Public Health which will have regulatory and enforcement authority over the growing, processing, sale and use of medical cannabis within the Mountain State.
During a brief ceremony at the state capitol, Justice signed a measure to make West Virginia the 29th legal medical marijuana state. Patients with specifically listed qualifying medical conditions will be allowed to use extracts, tinctures, and other preparations of marijuana, but not marijuana in flower or leaf form. Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer told Time the marijuana legalization in Canada "might help change the perceptions of some skeptics" or even "shift the center of gravity".
"This is a day exemplifying the compassion that West Virginians have for their fellow man", Gov. Justice said. "Medical marijuana can be effective in treating a variety of debilitating conditions and symptoms".
One downside to West Virginia's law is a new standard for driving under the influence of marijuana that erroneously equates impairment with a blood THC level of three nanograms per milliliter. "Providing patients with a safer alternative to opioids could turn out to be a godsend for this state".
Recreational marijuana is already legalized in Alaska, Maine, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Medical use was approved by ballot initiative in 14 of those states, beginning with California in 1996.
Six states have adopted comprehensive medical marijuana laws in the past 12 months.
On the floor of the House lawmakers were debating Senate Bill 17, which would allow residents suffering from PTSD and with a recommendation from a doctor to buy marijuana without paying retail taxes.
A provision that expires with the federal short-term spending plan on April. 28 prohibits Justice Department interference in state-level medical cannabis programs.
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