The West Virginia Senate recently passed a bill to legalize plant-based marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The bill is a mixture of various changes to state law, most of which being allowances provided to the Department of Health and Human Resources to notify authorities of the new regulations.
Having passed the Senate, the bill will now be presented to the House, where it will be put up for a vote.
Currently, West Virginia law only allows for medicinal marijuana to be dispensed in the form of pills and topicals including gels, oil, creams or ointments, vaporization, tincture, liquid or patch.
The legislation may help to make marijuana-based pain relief more easily accessible, as smoking is the most familiar form of marijuana consumption.
In a state like West Virginia, considered by many to be the heart of the opioid epidemic, adequate pain-relieving substitutes for opioids may be helpful.
A National Institute for Drug Abuse study recently found that states with medicinal marijuana laws, like the ones recently enacted in West Virginia, experienced slower rates of increase in opioid overdose death rates.
“I think with what we know right now, it is helpful,” said Colin MacFarland, biology student at WVU. “However, it needs to stand the test of time. I think that [allowing plant-based marijuana] will open up new medical opportunities for people.”
When the NIDA study was extended, however, the trend reversed. States with similar medicinal marijuana bills experienced higher than average rates of opioid overdose death, prompting some skepticism as to whether medicinal marijuana might help to cure the opioid epidemic.
Regardless, medicinal marijuana has been shown to decrease pain symptoms in various studies, and a paper from the University of Washington has claimed that many chronic pain patients are switching from opioid medication to marijuana.
NIDA urges caution in regard to the treatment, stating that there is not enough research to make a conclusive statement about medicinal marijuana and opioid abuse.