Compassion Benefits of Medical Cannabis Outweigh Fiscal Potential

Charleston WV– Today, the WV Center on Budget & Policy (CBP) released the first report to attempt to catalog and quantify the potential benefits from the overall liberalization of cannabis policy in West Virginia.  Specifically, the CBP looked at the possible impacts from decriminalization as well as legalization of medical and “adult use” (i.e. recreational) cannabis use.

CompassionWV applauds the CBP for releasing this landmark report.  It documents the sizable potential economic benefit to West Virginia from “cannabis tourism,” given full legalization for adult use, as well as shows the importance of decriminalization regulations in reducing the cost of law enforcement for cannabis-relate drug arrests.  CompassionWV appreciates the work of the WV Center on Budget and Policy to move the conversation about cannabis reform forward.

While the CBP report highlights the obvious monetary benefits of full legalization and decriminalization of cannabis for the state, CompassionWV sees establishing a well-regulated medical cannabis program as the most important priority for West Virginia in terms of cannabis reform. Unfortunately, every single cannabis-related bill introduced in the 2016 legislative session was barred from moving forward by leadership in the House of Delegates, despite bipartisan support for the majority of the proposed measures.

CompassionWV is pleased the report recognizes the importance medical cannabis can have on West Virginia’s opiate crisis; however, we feel further analysis is needed into the real-world economic and social benefits that it will provide the state.  The report rightly identifies the role that medical cannabis has already played in reducing health care costs, prescription rates for certain medications and overdoses from opiates in other states.  The report also points out the difficulty in accurately quantifying the monetary benefits due to a wide variety of influential factors that are not covered in the CPB’s report.  CompassionWV hopes to be able to partner with CBP and other groups in the future to better quantify the economic impact of a well-regulated medical cannabis program on the WV budget in terms of healthcare, law enforcement, and other cost savings.

“The potential revenue generated by medical cannabis is less flashy than $194 million in tax revenue, but there are still significant cost-savings to be realized by the state. A well-regulated medical cannabis program also has human benefits in terms of reducing opiate addiction and providing relief to people who are suffering from a variety of conditions,” says Rev. Mary Nichols, executive director of Compassion WV. “The human compassion benefits should be considered just as important as the potential for generating revenue.”

About CompassionWV:
The Compassion West Virginia Foundation was established recently as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to work toward comprehensive medical cannabis reform in West Virginia. Achieving this goal will be instrumental for (1) WV patients who are suffering debilitating diseases and other chronic conditions that do not respond to the treatments offered by traditional medicine; (2) reversing the epidemic of drug overdose deaths in WV related to opiate addiction; and (3) revitalizing the WV economy through the enactment of practical yet protective regulation of medical cannabis, job creation, and taxation of a new industry.
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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Rev. Mary Nichols at 304-382-4939 or email at

ASA Releases Cannabis Study on Pain Management


Contact Rev. Mary Nichols 
Cell 304-382-4939
Website http://compassionwv.og

August 9, 2016



Today, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) released a report entitled “Medical Cannabis Access for Pain Treatment: A Viable Strategy to Address the Opioid Crisis” in an effort to “educate legislators and health practitioners on the benefits of medical cannabis as a treatment option for the millions of patients suffering from chronic pain.”

** Cannabis is a long-recognized, safe and effective tool for pain management.

Unlike opiates, a lethal overdose from cannabis has never been recorded during its 9,000-year use as it cannot stop a person from breathing. THC, a psychoactive component in the cannabis plant, works together with prescription opioid medications to increase effectiveness of the pain relief, to reduce the dose of opioids used, and to reduces likelihood of becoming addicted. Patients who substitute cannabis for prescription opioids to control pain report they experience less adverse side effects, less potential for withdrawal and better symptom management.

** Patients dependent on opioid medications continue to benefit from medical cannabis and state governments with medical cannabis regulatory programs continue to benefit.

Several studies have now demonstrated a reduction in opioid mortality from overdose in those states that have adopted medical cannabis regulatory programs. This was first reported in August 2014 by an oft-cited study in JAMA and has been since been confirmed by the work of analysts at the RAND Corporation through a series of reports.) Not only is the effect significant – at least 25% reduction has been reported – but it appears to strengthen over time. Some evidence exists to show that pain patients will seek out medical cannabis solutions over prescription drug solutions for management of symptoms in those markets that allow legal access to both.

** Compassion West Virginia is the Mountain State’s leading patient advocate and authority on the use of cannabis as a medicine and is working to engage & educate West Virginia legislators.

Compassion West Virginia encourages all advocates, citizens and state and local legislators to understand the contents of this important document. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that opioids—a class of drugs that includes prescription pain medications and heroin—were involved in 28,648 deaths in and 80% of the world’s supply is consumed by just 5% of the world’s population. West Virginia has a remarkably high domestic share of this 5% and all possible solutions must be put on the table. The opiate crisis has now even claimed such victims as Berkeley County Sheriff Candidate John Orem. (See ) No segment of West Virginia is untouched by the looming shadow of addiction and death, including our veterans and our law enforcement.

We hope state leaders like Governor Tomblin, Senators Manchin and Capito Moore, Attorney General Morrissey and all our locally elected officials take note of these findings and the potential to help heal our citizens and create a more prosperous West Virginia. We hope all those running for office this November take note of these findings and seek to learn more.

Compassion West Virginia advocates that West Virginia implement practical yet protective cannabis regulatory programs immediately that provide high-quality and affordable products to patients in need. Please help the movement by visiting our web site ( to donate and join the cause.

About CompassionWV
The Compassion West Virginia Foundation was established recently as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization to work toward comprehensive medical cannabis reform in West Virginia. Achieving this goal will be instrumental for (1) WV patients who are suffering debilitating diseases and other chronic conditions that do not respond to the treatments offered by traditional medicine; (2) reversing the epidemic of drug overdose deaths in WV related to opiate addiction; and (3) revitalizing the WV economy through the enactment of practical yet protective regulation of medical cannabis, job creation, and taxation of a new industry.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Rev. Mary Nichols at 304-382-4939 or email at

Jamie Butcher


Weston WV Man, Paralyzed From the Neck Down, Dreams of Becoming a Bodybuilder

Weston, WV— On September 12, 2012, Jamie Butcher was involved in a devastating car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. The car in front of him, which had no working brake lights, slammed on the brakes, causing Jamie to rear-end the car at 35 mph.  Jamie was transported to the local hospital emergency room, where a CT scan suggested that nothing was wrong beyond being in shock from the accident. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

The mangled remains of Jamie’s truck

The emergency room staff removed Jamie’s neck brace, and his wife, Lisa began to help dress him with the assistance of Jamie’s father. When Jamie attempted to stand, he started sliding off the bed and insisted that something was badly wrong. The emergency room staff, with the assistance of Jamie’s family, wrestled him back into bed, all without the neck brace. Jamie, who had no sensation from the neck down, demanded to be sent to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, despite the objections of the hospital staff, who continued to insist that Jamie was merely in shock. At Ruby, Jamie underwent a thorough neurological evaluation and an MRI, which showed a herniation of the C3 disk pressing on the main electrical pathway from Jamie’s brain. Jamie’s surgeon, Dr. Scott Daffner, removed part of the C3 vertebra in order to remove the disk material pressing on Jamie’s spinal cord. Dr. Daffner then used cadaver bone, 2 plates, and 8 titanium screws to stabilize Jamie’s cervical spine.



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American Pain Society Issues New Guidance on Medical Marijuana

A marijuana leaf is displayed at Canna Pi medical marijuana dispensary in Seattle, Washington, November 27, 2012. Picture taken November 27, 2012.  REUTERS/Anthony Bolante

The strongest evidence in terms of the therapeutic benefits from herbal cannabis, specifically cannabinoids, suggests analgesic effects, with a lengthy list of other possible benefits, including anticonvulsant activity, relief of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, migraine relief, and inflammatory bowel disease.

“The problem is that most of the benefits are simply not well studied, with the exception of FDA [US Food and Drug Administration] indications for antiemetic and antinausea properties associated with chemotherapy and for wasting associated with HIV,” Dr Savage said.


Alexander Johnson

Alexander Johnson



Morgantown, WV– In 2014, Autum Johnson delivered a healthy, happy baby boy she named Alexander. As he developed, Alexander started to lose the ability to move. At five weeks old, Alexander was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 1 (SMA-1), a rare genetic disorder that is related to ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). As these children progressively lose movement, they become locked in their bodies. Babies with SMA-1 are not able to sit up, swallow, or breathe without assistance and require specialized 24-hour care. Alexander’s movement is currently limited to his eyebrows, jaw, and index fingers.

“I’m completely open about everything that is going on with Alex. I hope that another mother finds the information and doesn’t have to make the mistakes we made early in the process just because the information wasn’t out there,” Autum explains.

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Mike and Levi Lockard

Mike and Levi Lockard
Ireland, WV, April 29, 2016

Seven years ago, Mike Lockard and his wife brought home their fourth child, a beautiful baby boy they called Levi. Mike and his wife quickly realized that something was wrong with their son. Levi was having extreme difficulty in nursing and began rapidly losing weight. The Lockards took Levi to WVU Medical Center, where they were told their son was going to die. They were instructed that all they could do was to take their baby home and make him as comfortable as possible. Not ready to give up, Mike and his wife took Levi to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, where doctors put Levi on a temporary feeding tube. After Levi began gaining weight, the doctors put in a permanent GI tube.

Seizure Control, But With Side Effects

Levi has cerebral palsy. He is totally deaf. Along with these challenges, Levi also has two different kinds of seizures and has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Levi’s seizures are currently fairly well controlled with medication; however, these drugs come with serious side effects. In the past, when Levi was on a common seizure medication called Keppra, Levi experienced rages as a side effect of the drug where he would bite, hit himself, or bang his head onto the floor. While Levi was taking Keppra, the Lockards spent up to 16 hours a day just trying to keep Levi from hurting himself.

It’s ridiculous. With all the drugs that people are allowed to take, it doesn’t make sense that we can’t have a plant that has grown in the ground for centuries.

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UNGASS2016: Will Baby Steps Forward Be Enough?



In 2013, Mexico, Guatemala, and Columbia called for a UN General Assembly Special Session because the failed War on Drugs, frankly, has created a huge financial burden on their countries. Essentially, the aggressive actions of the U.S. in policing drug traffic by air and sea has forced drug cartels to transport drugs on land.[1] This has created a corridor of crime– kidnapping, extortion, and gang violence through Latin America and Mexico to the United States. These countries are considered “transit nations” that “produce and consume few drugs,” making them “among the more innocent victims” of the War on Drugs.[2]

Unfortunately, the call by Guatemala and other countries to focus on decriminalization fell largely on a deaf audience at UNGASS2016. There was some increased discussion about focusing more on human rights; however, the majority of countries are still focused on a “dominantly courts-and-cops approach to fighting drugs.”[3] Russia stood out as the leader of a consensus of countries including Singapore and others who stand by a hardline approach to demand reduction through law enforcement. In so-called drug “treatment” programs in many Asian countries, detainees (as opposed to patients) are held in conditions where they are often treated with “sadistic violence—being shocked with electric batons, whipped with twisted electrical wire, beaten, and being chained while standing in the sun.”[4]

On the other side of the coin are the experts who argue in favor of a harm reduction strategy to solve the world’s drug crisis. Harm reductionists see the failure of the War on Drugs as a result of the extreme focus on breaking the supply-demand chain. “This approach has clearly failed as drug production, illicit use and its effects on domestic crime, health problems and drug-related violence have only expanded in recent decades in regions such as Latin America.”[5]

Unfortunately, little actual progress seems to have come out of UNGASS2016 in terms of actual policy change by the UN or its member nations; however, even though the outcome was much less than what could have been, something positive did come from the event. In 2019, the UN’s current world drug strategy will expire.[6] UNGASS2016 shined a bright and unwelcome light on the human rights abuses in Russia, Asia, Indonesia, Tanzania, and other countries. Additionally, the conference highlighted the issue of access to vital pain control medications in countries such as Guatemala, where a person must travel sometimes hundreds of miles to a single office in Guatemala City to get medicine for cancer pain.[7]

Over the coming years, the prohibitionist countries will continue with their law-enforcement based strategy, while reform-minded countries will continue to decriminalize and focus on harm-reduction based strategies. “But ultimately the reformers are likely to have the advantage. Their approach is based in science rather than ideology, and the evidence suggests strongly that they will attain the better public health outcomes.”[8]

[1] Diederick Lohman, “Guatemala’s President: ‘My Country Bears the Scars from the War On Drugs’,” Guardian, January 19, 2013, accessed April 24, 2016,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Diederick Lohman, “A Missed Opportunity to End the War On Drugs,” Rethinking the War on Drugs (blog), Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2016, accessed April 24, 2016,

[4] Richard Pearshouse, “Why Asia’s Drug Detention Centers Need to Be Shuttered,” Rethinking the War on Drugs (blog), Human Rights Watch, April 18, 2016, accessed April 24, 2016, Diederick Lohman, “A Missed Opportunity to End the War On Drugs,” Rethinking the War on Drugs (blog), Human Rights Watch, April 22, 2016, accessed April 24, 2016,

[5] David Scott Matheison, “A New Approach to Drug Policy and Human Rights,” Rethinking the War on Drugs (blog), Human Rights Watch, April 19, 2016, accessed April 24, 2016,

[6] Lohman, “A Missed Opportunity to End the War on Drugs.”

[7] Diederick Lohman, “Guatemala” Where (Legal) Pain Relief is All But Impossible, Rethinking the War on Drugs (blog), Human Rights Watch, April 20, 2016, accessed April 24, 2016,

[8] Lohman, “A Missed Opportunity to End the War on Drugs.”

WHO at UNGASS2016: Focus on Public Health, Not Law Enforcement

Credit: WHO

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), delivered opening remarks at UNGASS2016 in New York on Tuesday. In her remarks, Dr. Chan encouraged world leaders to view drug abuse and addiction not as a law enforcement issue, but rather, as a public health issue. 

In the view of WHO, drug policies that focus almost exclusively on use of the criminal justice system need to be broadened by embracing a public health approach. A public health approach starts with the science and the evidence. It tells us several things.

Drug use can be prevented. Drug use disorders can be treated. Drug dependence that contributes to crime can be diminished. People with drug dependence can be helped and returned to productive roles in society.

WHO promotes a comprehensive package of interventions to achieve these objectives. The evidence shows they work. — Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO

While Dr. Chan did not specifically mention medical cannabis, she urged the body to proceed with compassion. Many controlled substances serve important roles in medicine as pain medications. Other substances, such as cannabis, need additional access to further medical research. 

WHO is engaged in another dimension of the world drug problem that needs urgent attention.

The international drug control conventions place a dual obligation on governments: to prevent abuse, diversion, and trafficking, but also to ensure the availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific purposes.

Many controlled substances play a critical role in medical care, for the relief of pain, for example, or use in anaesthesia, surgery, and the treatment of mental disorders.

Unfortunately, the obligation to prevent abuse has received far more attention that the obligation to ensure availability for medical care. WHO estimates that 80% of the world’s population lives in countries with zero or very little access to controlled medicines for relieving moderate to severe pain.

After you endorse and begin to implement the outcome document, I urge you to remember the people. And remember their right to treatment and care.

The people with cancer who die in agony for want of pain relief. The people wishing to be free from drugs who get no help from the health or social services.

The people forced into crime or prostitution to pay for their addiction, and what this does to society. And the millions whose injecting drug use adds HIV or hepatitis to their misery.  — Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO

See Dr. Chan’s full remarks at:

UNGASS2016 Gets Off to Rocky Start

Credit: UNGASS2016

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS2016) kicked off today in New York. The UN Human Rights Commission has already issued a scathing critique of the Outcome Document. UN Human Rights believes that the current global war on drugs is ineffective and is overly reliant on criminalization and harsh punishments to create an in-achievable goal of a “drug free world.” Specifically, UN Human Rights objects to the death penalty. UN Human Rights supports affordable access to health care, palliative care, and drug treatment programs, among other options, as alternatives to the current “war on drugs.” 

While we are encouraged by the presence of human rights language and standards throughout the current outcome document, in our opinion, the text fails to sufficiently articulate the binding nature of human rights obligations in the context of international drug control and continues to embrace the harmful concept of a ‘drug-free world.

We are concerned that the current international drug control regime remains excessively punitive.  Most drug control policies at the national level are based on criminalisation, incarceration, and over-investment in law enforcement, which have proven to be serious barriers in the protection and fulfilment of human rights. 

– See more at: