CHARLESTON, W.Va.--Lawmakers received a draft of a bill Wednesday that, if passed, would legalize the use of medical marijuana in West Virginia.
Nearly identical bills were introduced in the House the previous two legislative sessions, but died in committee.
That will have to change this time around for there to be any discussions in the state Senate, said Senate Health Committee Chairman Ron Stollings, D-Boone.
"Unless it comes out of the House, I can't really imagine us handling it De novo (anew) on the Senate side," Stollings said.
Stollings, a physician, said there are definite medicinal uses for marijuana. The logistics and liability associated with safely getting the marijuana to a patient is the issue, he said.
Although 20 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, the federal government still classifies it as an illegal drug with no medicinal properties. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said the federal Department of Justice won't pursue smalltime marijuana prosecutions.
But that could change under a different administration, Stollings said.
If it does change, it could mean the doctor who prescribed or recommended a patient use marijuana could also be liable for some sort of damages, he said.
The same issue came up in a brief discussion of the draft legislation presented to a House and Senate joint health committee Wednesday.
House health committee attorney Charles Roskevensky presented the measure, describing it as a "very rough draft" for a potential bill that could be introduced in the 2014 session.
The measure outlines the amount of marijuana patients or caregivers could have at one time, how they can sell or buy the product, requirements needed to qualify for medicinal marijuana and more.
Qualified patients could possess a maximum of six ounces of usable marijuana. They could also have 12 mature marijuana plants and twelve seedlings, if they do not have a caregiver that grows their marijuana.
Caregivers would also be limited to the same amounts for each of their qualified patients.
Patients can buy marijuana from a licensed caregiver or "compassion center," essentially a marijuana pharmacy, only after receiving permission from a doctor with whom they have a "bona fide doctor-patient relationship," the bill states.