CHARLESTON — A bill that could have opened the door for significant changes to the state’s medical cannabis program was taken off the agenda of the House of Delegates on Saturday, the 60th and final day of the legislative session.
While a vote on the third reading of Senate Bill 752 was originally scheduled, the House Rules Committee voted 12-8 Saturday morning to remove the measure from the calendar.
House Majority Leader Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor, said the members of her caucus had issues with the bill’s provisions.
“We spoke to our members, and they wanted time to review the amendments,” she said. “After doing so, they still had many concerns with the bill, and this is what they thought was best.”
The Committee Substitute for SB 752 passed the state Senate last Tuesday, with 30 senators voting yes and four voting no.
For the first time, the legislation opened the possibility of including “dry leaf or plant form” cannabis and edible forms of cannabis for eligible patients.
Originally, the medical cannabis program allowed only cannabis in the form of pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquids and non-whole plant forms for administration through vaporization.
Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill legalizing medical cannabis in April 2017. The program was supposed to begin in July 2019. However, it has faced several challenges, including securing a banking solution for cannabis-related businesses.
The application period for permits for medical cannabis growers, processors, dispensaries and laboratories through the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Medical Cannabis closed on Feb. 18.
In addition to removing restrictions on dispensing “dry leaf or plant form” and edible forms of cannabis, SB 752 made numerous changes to the program and how it operates.
Most significantly, the bill would have authorized the commissioner of the state Bureau for Public Health to approve additions to which forms of lawful medical cannabis could be used.
The bill also laid out a set of conditions allowing accredited colleges, universities and medical schools to engage in approved medical cannabis research.
In a tweet posted Saturday morning, Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, blamed members of the Republican caucus for blocking the legislation from reaching the floor of the House.
“The @WVGOP at work,” he wrote. “Actively sabotaging people getting medicine. Actively sabotaging jobs and investments in WV. They enjoy being last.”
House Minority Whip Del. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said he was “very disappointed” to see the bill moved off the House agenda.
“We passed medical cannabis about five years ago. It’s something that constituents all across the state have talked to us about,” he said. “It helps veterans with PTSD — it helps so many people. We have a few kinks that we’ve got to work out, but for some reason they just keep blocking the legislation.”
Ignoring medical cannabis puts West Virginia behind many of its neighboring states, Caputo said.
“It’s not about using a drug to get high — it’s about using it as drug to help sick people,” he said.