CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A bill that would legalize the use of marijuana in West Virginia for medical purposes was among the final bills introduced in the state Senate Monday, the deadline for bill introductions during this year's Regular Legislative Session.
Chris Yeager, a Marine Corps veteran from Kanawha County, supports the proposed law change. "What we're basically advocating for is the safe, legal access to an alternative to pharmaceuticals," said Yeager.
He uses marijuana to treat PTSD, but said it has many other potential applications in healthcare – including in the treatment of drug addiction.
"There's no doubt in my mind that this is something that we need to add to our arsenal whenever it comes to addressing this opiate and heroin addiction problem in this state," said Yeager who lost his brother to an overdose of Suboxone in 2010. The Suboxone was being used to treat his brother's opiate addiction.
In all, some form of medical marijuana is now legal in 23 other states.
"Every state that touches our borders has some type of medical marijuana law in place and I just find it ludicrous that we’re not using this as an opportunity to address the opiate and heroin problems," Yeager said on Monday's MetroNews "Talkline."
"I'm not saying that this is going to completely rid our state of the opiate and heroin problems, but we have to be able to use multiple tools in our toolbelt when we’re addressing this problem."
As proposed, the "Creating Compassionate Use Act for Medical Cannabis" provides protections for the medical use of cannabis for debilitating medical conditions that are defined in the bill. It also requires qualifying patients and designated caregivers to be registered with the state.
The proposed bill, SB 546, was introduced in the state Senate Monday and referred to the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee.
Following Monday's introduction deadline in the Senate, Tuesday is the final day bills can be introduced in the state House of Delegates.
The 2015 Regular Legislative Session ends on March 14.