Cheers were heard around the country as West Virginia became the 29th American state to legalize cannabis for medical use (for political reasons, we loathe using the term “medical marijuana”, but we aren’t prideful enough to ignore SEO).
Governor Jim Justice signed SB 386, which passed the State Senate 28-6 on March 29th, and the House on April 4 by 76024, saying “I think all of us will feel like we’re doing something good for families out there.”
That comment gave us pause… Even though Justice is a Democrat, West Virginia has voted Republican for 20 years. Thought those Republicans were law-and-order folks who didn’t approve of cannabis’ legalization? (Oh yeah, the law doesn’t go into effect until 2019…)
Well, West Virginia has two HUGE reasons to want cannabis legalized: jobs and opiate addiction.
On the economy, though the President promised to bring coal jobs back, technological advances have changed the arithmetic of coal mining – such as “mountain topping”. (“Coal companies in Appalachia are increasingly using this method because it allows for almost complete recovery of coal seams while reducing the number of workers required to a fraction of what conventional methods require.” Doesn’t seem those jobs will come back.
Cannabis, on the other hand, is a dynamic job creator. The State of Colorado has seen more than 25,000 jobs created in multiple sectors of the industry in the last few years. And the state could collect an estimated $45 Million in new tax revenue from its new industry annually (counting visitors from neighboring states, estimates climb to $194 Million), as well as reduce law enforcement costs (cannabis arrests are currently half of all drug arrests in the state, according to ACLU data).
On the health front, West Virginia has the 3rd highest cancer-related death rate in the US, and the highest rate of opioid-related overdose deaths. Cannabis can be a useful tool in helping patients of each of these, and many other conditions and diseases.
So when Governor Justice opens a door to West Virginia families – some facing serious economic and health challenges – everyone rightly applauds. But one questions remains: the speed of implementation.
So West Virginia, while trying to solve such big problems, why go slow?