Snail’s Pace

W.Va. moving slow on medical marijuana

Ohioans who think the active ingredient in marijuana may help them with medical conditions were able to buy it beginning in January, about two and a half years after a state law legalizing such sales was enacted.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a similar piece of legislation on April 19, 2017. Yet state officials say it will be October 2021 — about three and a half years later — before Mountain State residents can gain access to medicinal marijuana.

There are plenty of people willing to argue, pro and con, about whether medicinal marijuana is a good idea in West Virginia. The bottom line, though, is that it has been legalized — but state government has not been able to work out the mechanics of production and distribution.

Thirty-three states have legalized medicinal marijuana. There were plenty of templates from which West Virginia officials could have worked. Some date back many years; California was the first state to allow such sales, in 1996.

Granted, this is not a simple matter. For one thing, marijuana sales for any reason remain illegal under federal law. Backing that up is a federal ban on banks handling money that flows through the marijuana trade. West Virginia legislators just weeks ago approved a bill intended to overcome that obstacle legally.

Allowing sale of medicinal marijuana requires setting up a system from the ground up, quite literally. Mechanisms to license and regulate growers, processors, prescribers and retailers must be established.

But that is happening at a snail’s pace in West Virginia. This week, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that state officials do not expect medicinal marijuana sales to begin until at least October 2021. That would be “if all goes smoothly,” one official told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Mountain State residents who are suffering with everything from chronic pain to cancer must wait for the relief some hope may come from medicinal marijuana.

State legislators who approved providing that help, like many of their constituents, had their reservations. But the decision to give it a try was made. Surely there is some way to speed the process along.