People who suffer with "debilitating medical conditions" could begin to be prescribed medical marijuana if a bill sponsored by Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, gains support. The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act will not likely see a vote this session, but it could be considered this fall.
"Over the past few years I have been contacted by six or seven constituents in my area that requested I consider introducing something on medical marijuana," Manypenny said. "I didn't take it seriously at first, but I have come across people who are using it for legitimate reasons and they feel guilty because they are breaking the law."
The bill determines the types of patients, physicians and caregivers who would be exempt from prosecution for possessing up to six marijuana plants and 1 ounce of "useable marijuana."
"I am not afraid of controversy and decided to take on the job of educating myself," Manypenny said. "Over the summer, I watched several documentaries on the use of medical marijuana. It kind of sparked an interest in me."
According to the bill, modern medical research has discovered beneficial uses of marijuana in treating or alleviating pain and other symptoms associated with medical conditions.
Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington already allow medical marijuana use.
"AARP did a poll and had 80 percent approval to allow a doctor to prescribe marijuana," Manypenny said. "The cons are mostly from the federal government."
The bill defines "debilitating medical conditions" as cancer, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS.
The bill would also allow marijuana treatment of any condition that causes: "Cachexia or wasting syndrome; severe or chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of epilepsy; severe and persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease; or any other weakening medical condition or its treatment that is recognized by licensed medical authorities as being treatable with marijuana in a manner that is superior to treatment without marijuana."
Manypenny said the human body has naturally occurring canaboid receptors, and marijuana is the only plant that produces canaboids received by the receptors. "They are very effective pain suppressers and for the improvement of appetite," he said. "It seems to me that if the good Lord made these receptors in the body and this plant, it was for a purpose."
The legislator said there has never been a proven case of a marijuana overdose and the substance is not "physiologically" addictive. He said the bill will not be taken into consideration during the current session because the last day to introduce bills already passed.
"There is some talk about a study during the interim sessions over the summer," Manypenny said. "I am considering doing a floor speech next week."
The legislation states qualifying patients or caregivers would be given a registry identification card issued by the government to receive the marijuana. Any sales tax from medical marijuana would be placed in a special fund for drug prevention and substance abuse programs in schools and substance abuse treatment facilities.
"No person shall be subject to arrest or prosecution for constructive possession, conspiracy or any other offense for simply being in the presence or vicinity of the medical use of marijuana as permitted under this article," the bill states.
The bill prohibits anyone from driving a motor vehicle, aircraft or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana or smoking it in a school bus or other form of public transportation, on school grounds, in correctional facilities, at any public park or recreation center, or any place where cigarette smoking is prohibited by law.
The bill also states that government medical assistance or private insurance companies do not have to reimburse for costs associated with the medical use of marijuana.
"I've been an herbalist all my life," Manypenny said. "I feel if the good Lord put a plant on the earth for us to use, we should. Natural medicine is safer in a lot of respects."