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W.Va. House Democrats Call On Commerce Secretary To Fast-Track Recreational Cannabis Study

A marijuana plant grows at Fotmer SA, an enterprise that produces cannabis for medical use, in Montevideo, Uruguay, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.
Matilde Campodonico
AP Photo

Democrats in the West Virginia House of Delegates are asking the state Department of Commerce to fast-track a study on adult use of recreational cannabis.

State Department of Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch told the House Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Committee Wednesday he would consider studying the economic impact of adult use of recreational cannabis. 

In a letter dated Friday, Jan. 17, 25 House Democrats called on Gaunch to fast-track that effort. 

“We were encouraged to hear Secretary Gaunch state his willingness to have the Commerce Department consider such a study,” Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said. “This is an industry that has the potential to blow the lid off of our tourism development in the state.”

House Democrats say West Virginia risks losing economic opportunities to other states on the east coast — should those state first legalize recreational cannabis. 

As of the beginning of 2020, ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use.

“Now is the time to take advantage of the fastest growing industry in this country,” Del. Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, said in a news release. “We need to act this legislative session or risk losing this opportunity of putting West Virginians first for once, instead of being last to act while watching our neighboring states prosper.

Multiple bills have been introduced this session on the issue. None of have yet made their way to a committee.

The state’s medical cannabis program, enacted by legislation from 2018, was made legal July 1, 2019. The implementation of licensing — for growers, processors and distributors — is ongoing from the state Department of Health and Human Resources. 

However, leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature and Gov. Jim Justice have said they oppose recreational cannabis. 

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