CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WOWK) — A group of House Democrats is backing a bill that would legalize cannabis use for anyone over the age of 21. Still, other bills would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Many supporters believe West Virginia is missing out on a huge source of revenue.
“Nearly 60 thousand West Virginians have left our state. We have continued to turn our back on the fastest growing industry in the entire country. One that provides over 200-thousand jobs in our country,” said Del. Shawn Fluharty, (D) Ohio.
But Republican critics worry the state already has too many drug problems.
“It’s a gateway drug. So, we have an opioid problem. Many, many of these folks that are on drugs, started out with marijuana,” said State Sen. Mike Azinger, (R) Wood.
“This is something we should not do in West Virginia until they legalize it federally. If they legalize it federally, then it takes a whole lot of the risk out around the black market,” said State Sen. Eric Tarr, (R) Putnam.
But Democrats remain in the minority. As with the medical marijuana law approval three years ago, they will need significant Republican support.
“Because it’s not a Democrat or Republican issue. It’s a bipartisan issue. In fact, it’s a Republican issue. This is about jobs. This is about economic development,” said Del. Mick Bates, (D) Raleigh.
So far, Republican party leadership is opposed.
“As of now, there are at least a half a dozen marijuana-related bills in the hopper, from legalization to decriminalization to medicinal updates. We’ll be watching to see if any of those bills make it to the floor, for a final vote,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.