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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.