The West Virginia Senate on Wednesday passed a bill to add edibles to the permitted forms of medical cannabis.
Senate Bill 590 adds edible form to the list of permitted cannabis forms for consumption by patients in the medical cannabis program. The bill prohibits the sale of products that may entice children, including but not limited to the shapes of animals or humans.
The Bureau for Public Health also has rule-making authority within the Medical Cannabis Act, and could require products be childproofed, for example, said Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, chair of the Senate Health Committee.
Edibles were included in the initial drafts of the Medical Cannabis Act, including when it passed the Senate in 2017.
Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, said he was persuaded to draft the act because of two friends who were combat veterans. One had terminal cancer, and he told Woelfel if he survived, medical cannabis could help sustain his appetite.
“That’s what persuaded me to bring this back to the attention of the body,” Woelfel said.
Two senators voiced their opposition to the bill, citing statistics of rising use and accidental use by children.
Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, said he doesn’t believe the bill as amended by the Health Committee was enough to prevent misuse. He said anything with sugar would attract the attention of a child. He read off a list of “gross” candy marketed at children, including vomit-flavored jelly beans from the Jelly Belly Harry Potter line.
“If kids are enticed by ‘camel balls,’ I’m not sure there’s anything that won’t entice them,” he said, referring to a type of liquid-filled gumballs.
Studies of medical cannabis programs across the country found accidental use by children increased following implementation. A study of Colorado published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found regional poison control calls increased “significantly” and at a higher rate than the rest of the country between 2009 and 2015. Edibles were the culprit in a little more than half of all cases.
Colorado enacted stricter packaging laws after increases were seen. SB 590 is modeled after that legislation.
Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, a physician, said while the percentages in the studies are large, the actual number of cases is still relatively low. The Colorado study found 81 patients were hospitalized in the six-year period. The rate increased from one in 2009 to 16 in 2015.
Takubo said he is against smoking marijuana because of the danger to the lungs, but edibles are a good balance to still provide the benefits to those who need it.
“If you take away the edible fashion, there are some people who can benefit, like the gentleman from Cabell — he probably smoked a lot of tobacco because they smoked a lot of tobacco [in the military in wars like] World War II and Vietnam. He probably doesn’t have very good lung function,” Takubo said. “In order to get those, if we take out edibles, they are going to try and make it themselves, because if they smoke it they might not be able to breathe after.”
The bill passed 26-8 and now heads to the House of Delegates.
No patients in West Virginia have access to medical cannabis yet, but registration of patients began last year. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Resources announced a laboratory permit for medical cannabis testing was awarded to Analabs Inc., of Crab Orchard. The lab is expected to perform a range of testing to ensure products are safe for patient medical use.
Reporter Taylor Stuck can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.