Be Cautious On Marijuana

Far from legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, as has been suggested, West Virginia legislators ought to take another look at the statute allowing its use for medicinal reasons.

Use of the active ingredient in marijuana to help those suffering from some injuries and diseases was approved last year by the Legislature. The move came after years of emotional appeals from those who believe the drug may be a godsend to some Mountain State residents.

Consideration of specific rules for such sales is underway now. Under the law, marijuana will not be available through prescriptions until July 2019.

Members of the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health discussed the drug last week. What was said should be viewed as a yellow light, at the very least, on the marijuana legalization highway.

Legalization of the drug for health care purposes “is simply a back door for recreational use,” warned Dr. John Holloway, chairman of the board.

County health officer Dr. William Mercer agreed. “Recreational marijuana follows everywhere in two years,” he commented.

Mercer and Holloway also voiced reservations about medicinal marijuana. “Medicinal use comes from very bad medicine, very bad science,” Holloway emphasized. Mercer said some patients may benefit from the drug, but he added little information on factors such as dosages, effectiveness — and potential hazards — is available.

It would be nice if voices such as Holloway’s and Mercer’s were being heard in Charleston. But, officially at least, they are not. Not a single Northern Panhandle resident is on the state board discussing regulation of medicinal marijuana.

Getting one — Holloway or Mercer come to mind — would be a good thing.

Whether that happens or not, however, extreme caution needs to be taken in devising rules for legal sale of the drug. Many law enforcement officials worry about marijuana meant for legitimate use being diverted to those who intend to misuse it.

Once medicinal marijuana goes on the market, legislators will be under increased pressure to make it available for recreational use. When that time comes, they should bear in mind the enormous difference between helping people in pain and assisting those who just want to get high.