What Tuesday’s Primary Elections Mean for Marijuana

What Tuesday’s Primary Elections Mean for Marijuana

The results from Tuesday’s congressional and gubernatorial primary elections are in, and while the candidates campaigned on wide-ranging platforms, some of the results could mean a lot for state and federal marijuana reform.

Marijuana Moment put together a recap, examining where several of the primary winners stand on cannabis. While a number of other House primary elections took place throughout the country, the list below includes races where marijuana issues were relatively prominent.

Indiana U.S. Senate Primary

Republican winner: Mike Braun

During a debate last month, Braun said: “I think if a state wants to go to medical marijuana, it ought to be their prerogative.” But he also said that he was still “out on the issue” when it comes to his personal support for medical cannabis. It’s not clear based on that statement whether the businessman meant that he was undecided or opposed to reform, but he went on to say that “states are a great laboratory,” indicating that if elected to the Senate he would support efforts to scale back federal prohibition, at least when it comes to medical use.

“It’s happening right in front of us,” Braun said during the debate. “We’ll see what happens.”

Marijuana Moment reached out to Braun’s campaign office for clarification. This story will be updated if a response is received.

Of note is that Braun beat out two Republican challengers who have voiced steadfast opposition to marijuana legalization and have consistently voted against reform amendments as U.S. House members.

Democratic incumbent: Sen. Joe Donnelly

The incumbent senator earned a “D” rating from the pro-legalization group NORML due to his consistent failure to support federal legislation to reform marijuana laws. In 2007, during his time in the House, he voted against a measure to prevent federal interference in states where marijuana is legal. According to Civilized, Donnelly has said that it would not be “prudent” to legalize or decriminalize cannabis.

Ohio Gubernatorial Primary

Democratic winner: Richard Cordray

Cordray, the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has been sheepish about his personal stance on marijuana legalization. However, he’s been critical of Ohio’s medical marijuana program, which he feels was poorly implemented.

In a statement sent to Marijuana Moment last week, a spokesperson for Cordray said that he’d “fix the botched implementation” of the program” if elected and would also respect “voters’ right to propose a new [recreational marijuana legalization] referendum” and “follow the will of the voters if it comes to a vote.” The spokesperson declined to comment on Cordray’s personal feelings about recreational legalization.

Republican winner: Mike DeWine

While DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, has been relatively quiet about his stance on medical marijuana, he did say in 2014 that he thinks legalizing the plant for recreational purposes would be “a mistake.”

At a press conference with law enforcement, he acknowledged that legalization could take the substance off the black market and lead to fewer deaths from gang violence. That said, he still felt legalization would send a bad message to youth, saying that experts informed him that cannabis was a gateway drug to heroin “in some cases” and expressing concern that full legalization would mean “more people killed by someone who is high on marijuana” on highways. He’s also rejected several petitions to change that state constitution with respect to cannabis reform—though he’s attributed those rejection decisions to issues with the language of the petitions, not the underlying policy issue.

Ohio U.S. Senate Primary

Republican winner: U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci

The U.S. congressman hasn’t said much about marijuana, and he also hasn’t supported federal legislation to reform the country’s cannabis laws—including measures to protect legal states from federal interference, provide marijuana businesses with banking access, or allow Department of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend cannabis to patients.

In a recent interview with the Dayton Daily News, he did provide some insights into his perspective on the issue. Renacci said that he was “closely watching” Ohio’s medical marijuana program and voiced clear opposition to recreational marijuana legalization.

Democratic incumbent: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown 

Like many career politicians on Capitol Hill, Brown’s position on cannabis has evolved over the years. But that hasn’t necessarily been reflected in terms of introducing or co-sponsoring reform legislation.

Earlier, this year, when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo—which offered some protections against federal intervention in states where marijuana had been legalized—he spoke out, arguing that the Sessions should “mind the store on other things” and “put his efforts into this terrible addiction issue about opioids and worry less about medical marijuana.” However, Brown has also peddled the debunked gateway drug theory that marijuana leads users to harder drugs, and he’s said that he felt concerned that legalization would increase youth consumption. Brown is on the record defending the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, stating that “the evidence is in that [marijuana] works for a number of patients.”

West Virginia U.S. Senate Primary

Republican winner: Patrick Morrisey

The West Virginia attorney general has said that it was important to be “open-minded” about medical marijuana legalization because it “may provide some relief to those who truly may be in need and hurting.” However, Morrisey was clear during a debate hosted by local television station WSAZ last month that he was “opposed to it for recreational use.”

https://www.facebook.com/wsaz3/videos/10155920981524702/

Morrisey said that recreational marijuana was “another gateway into this terrible drug problem.” 

Democratic winner: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin

Though Manchin has faced criticism over his opposition to the legalization of cannabis—most recently during an April 5 town hall event where the senator was booed for suggesting that the substance was a gateway drug—he did reportedly cast a voice vote in support of a spending amendment that prevents federal intervention in state medical cannabis laws.

According to NORML, Manchin also said that he “would lean more to listen to the doctors, the professionals who are responsible for our health,” with respect to marijuana reform.

West Virginia U.S. House Primary (District 3)

Democratic winner: Richard Ojeda

The state senator and former Army veteran is decidedly pro-legalization. He sponsored a bill to legalize medical marijuana in West Virginia last year, which was signed into law by the governor on April 19, 2017. A statement on Ojeda’s campaign site makes his stance clear:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5GaJbqbHxE

“Through comprehensive cannabis legislation, encompassing decriminalization, medical, and industrial use, we can utilize one of the most medically beneficial and economically viable plants on Earth to fight the opioid epidemic, generate revenue to fund new education and infrastructure initiatives, and address the problem of overpopulation within our state correctional facilities,” it states. “With a comprehensive approach to cannabis policy, we can put West Virginia on a path to a prosperous future and grow a new economy that will benefit the people of our state for generations to come.”

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

What Tuesday’s Primary Elections Mean for Marijuana

 

West Virginia Opens the Door to Medical Cannabis

West Virginia Opens the Door to Medical Cannabis

Support for legal cannabis at an all time high as West Virginia is poised to become the 29th State to legalize marijuana.

In August, 2016, the West Virginia Center for Policy and Budget published a report exploring the potential budgetary and economic impacts of legalizing marijuana in the state. The report’s findings helped make serious headway in the discussion for legalizing marijuana both for medicinal benefits, as well as to fix West Virginia’s estimated $300 million projected budget deficit in 2018. The report cited the shift in public opinion by indicating that 53% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, and 46% of West Virginians support a regulation of cannabis similar to that of alcohol.

The report’s key findings indicate that West Virginia’s legalization of recreational cannabis, could help the state capitalize on potential tax revenue estimated between $45 million for taxing cannabis at 25% of it’s wholesale price, and $194 million, if only 10% of marijuana users in surrounding states came to West Virginia to make cannabis purchases. Additionally, the report noted that West Virginia had spent nearly $17 million in 2010 enforcing its archaic marijuana laws, a figure that would outright disappear and convert itself to money in the bank after modernization of the cannabis laws.

With a dying coal industry being the backbone of the West Virginia economy for decades past, the report offered a glimpse of hope in something other than coal, with the remainder of the more than 25,000 jobs the state of Colorado was able to add following its legalization of recreational marijuana.

Finally, the report indicated that there might actually be potential for relief from the overwhelming opioid overdose deaths in West Virginia. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2015, West Virginia reported the highest rate of opioid related deaths in the country at 41.5 per 100,000. Another report published by US News for the year 2016, indicated that a staggering 86% of all deaths in West Virginia were found to involve at least one opioid. The hope is that by offering people a less addictive alternative to dealing with mental health issues, there would be less use of the deadly opioids, which are changing families every day.

In light of the information in the report, the legislature responded with a small step in the right direction. In March of 2017, the West Virginia senate passed SB386, which creates the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, by a vote of 24-6. Among other technical aspects, the bill changes the criminalization laws, establishes a commission to oversee the distribution of cannabis prescription cards, a fund to account for the pecuniary aspects of medical cannabis, and sets forth the justifications for which a West Virginia patient could receive a prescription to obtain cannabis.

In the bill approved by both chambers, patients could receive permission to legally use cannabis for any of the following conditions:

  • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that results in a patient being admitted into hospice or receiving palliative care; or
  • A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment of a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that produces:
  • Cachexia, anorexia, or wasting syndrome;
  • Severe or chronic pain that does not find effective relief through standard pain medication;
  • Severe nausea;
  • Seizures; or
  • Severe or persistent muscle spasms

One of the major provisions of the original bill allowed patients approved for medical cannabis, to grow up to two plants for personal use. The excitement surrounding this provision quickly faded, as the West Virginia House of Representatives altered the original bill to eliminate not only the two plant provision, but also to eliminate the ability to possess the plant in its flower form at all. The House version of the bill, which was approved by a vote of 76-24, makes it legal to possess cannabis with a valid prescription, but only if it is in the form of an oil, a pill, or a patch, and it also pushed the roll out date out by one year to 2019. The only concession regarding format was that an oil based version could legally be incorporated into a baked product if baked personally by the prescription holder.

Another loss levied against the potential patients, was the house’s elimination of patients with PTSD as an approved class, which could offer relief to both the self-medicating facet of those suffering from the disease of addiction, as well as those attempting unsuccessfully to deal with their mental health issues through standard medications available at the present time.

West Virginians are meeting the bill with mixed emotions. On one hand, they are hopeful, as it is most definitely a step in the right direction, and the legislature has manifested its intent to work hard to improve the program in next year’s legislative session. On the other hand, there is concern that major pharmaceutical companies will take advantage of the situation, and do permanent damage to the movement in the state. Only time will tell, but at least the country seems to be moving beyond the demonization of this miraculous plant, and its undiscovered potential to improve the lives of people suffering around the world.

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