November 20, 2013 Updated: November 20, 2013 at 3:51 pm
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The first details about a proposal to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes in West Virginia emerged on Wednesday during a legislative committee meeting.
The legislature's Joint Health Committee was told during an interim meeting that a bill allowing the use of medical marijuana is being drafted for consideration in the upcoming legislative session.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says 20 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of medical marijuana, though it's still prohibited under federal law. West Virginia lawmakers have spent time learning about the issue in at least one previous interim meeting earlier this year.
Charles Roskovensky, chief counsel for the House Committee on Health and Human Resources, told the joint committee that a bill he's drafting for them would allow people with certain illnesses like cancer and glaucoma to possess up to six ounces of marijuana. If the bill becomes law, registered patients would be able to purchase medical marijuana at five 'compassion centers' throughout the state that would be chosen through a competitive bid process, he said. Registered patients would also be allowed to have a limited number of 12 marijuana plants, he said.
Roskovensky said the bill was not in its final form and solicited suggestions from lawmakers who serve on the Joint Health Committee, and directed questions about the proposal to the committee's co-chairmen. It wasn't clear how much support the proposal would have in the committee. No vote was taken and comments were limited, with most questions and discussion being deferred to another time.
Still, marijuana legalization supporters celebrated that the discussion was happening at all.
"Marijuana has proven medical benefits, and seriously ill individuals should be able to use it without fear of arrest and prosecution," Marijuana Policy Project legislative analyst Matt Simon said in a prepared statement. "We are pleased to see legislators are educating themselves on the issue, and we hope they will move forward with this compassionate and much-needed legislation."
Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis