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Rally set on medicinal cannabis

BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon and four other cities will be part of the first West Virginia Statewide Pro-cannabis Rally, an opportunity to educate people on the benefits of medicinal cannabis.

The rally, which will be held from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday at Jawbone Park, will provide education and resources on the economic benefits the state would gain, but also the health advantages possible for many West Virginians if medicinal cannabis was legal.

Other events are planned in Beckley, Lewisburg, Morgantown and Parkersburg.

Amanda Barbo-Vezinat, who is the coordinator for the Buckhannon location, discussed House Bill 4345, which would increase the amount of permits for growers, processors and dispensaries of medical cannabis. That legislation is currently “up in the air.”

“It was basically set (aside) until the timeline ran out and once that was done Gov. Jim Justice went in and did a veto line and pulled the funding for it,” she said, adding $2 million was removed for the medical cannabis program.

Barbo-Vezinat said opioids have affected the lives of so many in the area, and there needs to be a better way for people to medicate.

“They don’t want to be just constantly in this fog of pills because they’re not living their lives,” she said. “This is about quality of life.”

On top of the fact that marijuana is still illegal, Barbo-Vezinat is stressing that the rally is not the space for a smoke out.

“There has been a stigma attached to the word marijuana and to the word cannabis, and people tend to look at it more as a drug, and we need to move away from that stigma,” she said. “People need to understand that for many of us, myself included — I’m a 60 percent stable veteran — for a lot of people this is an alternative medical resource that doesn’t give us the harsh side effects that we would get from medications that are prescribed to us through pharmaceutical companies.

“A lot of the pharmaceuticals that we are prescribed are either highly addictive opioid or … have side affects such as (suicidal thoughts),” Barbo-Vezinat continued.

The pro-cannabis rally is not only designed to inform community members on cannabis, she said, but also to allow folks to meet with political candidates who are for the legalization of medicinal cannabis.

Political candidates — some of whom are for full legalization and some just for medicinal use — will be speaking at the rally, include Tally Sergent, Paula Jean Swearengin, Robert Karnes, Matt Kerner and Robert Kincaid.

Local bands and musicians will be performing throughout the rally, including Tim Beard, Adam Moyer, Ben Townsend and Rick Miller.

With more than 400 people interested in attending the rally, according to the event’s Facebook page, Barbo-Vezinat said the Buckhannon location seems to have the most attention out of the four other locations.

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