By Brian Skinner, Esq.
On Tuesday, Governor Tom Wolf of West Virginia’s neighbor to the north, Pennsylvania, called on state lawmakers to legalize a commercial recreational marijuana program during the fall legislative session. Pennsylvannia’s Medical Marijuana Program was signed into law on April 17, 2016, and one year and two days later, West Virginia’s Medical Cannabis Program, a virtual carbon copy of the Pennsylvania program, was signed into law signed into law on April 19, 2017.
If Pennsylvania enacts the legalization of recreational marijuana this year, can we expect West Virginia to take up the issue during the 2021 regular legislative session?
While the West Virginia House of Delegates will likely remain under its current leadership for the 2021 legislative session, the Senate will have a new president given Senator Mitch Carmichael’s primary election loss. The Senate has always been more willing to consider marijuana/cannabis related legislation, especially medical cannabis. That willingness is likely to continue into the next legislative session.
Speaker Hanshaw has previously indicated that he is not in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. But given the potential for tax revenues and business development in a state that desperately needs both, perhaps he might have a change of opinion if Pennsylvania joins the 11 states that have already approved marijuana for recreational use. Especially, if the state’s nascent medical cannabis program finally gets off the ground this fall with the approval of permits.
Brian Skinner is the former counsel to the West Virginia House of Delegates Committee on the Judiciary and counsel to the West Virginia Senate Minority Caucus. He has over a decade of experience as an adviser to legislators on legal and political issues related to pending legislation; providing research and legal analysis services to legislative committees; and preparing bills, resolutions, amendments, and other documents for the West Virginia Legislature.