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Information, Thought process, and strategy for 2018 in West Virginia.

The Colorado Solution is about more than marijuana…It’s time to fund PEIA, WV Teachers, and all WV state employees.

As many of those reading already know, Governor Justice has now appointed, and reviewed the first meeting of a special 34-member Task Force to study the PEIA issue.  This is the beginning of a process that will include a series of public hearings across the state.  supposedly one public hearing in each of the 55 counties, according to news sources. People need to turn out at every one of these public hearings, call talk radio shows, write letters to the editors, submit Op-Ed articles to your local newspapers, suggest that everyone call the members of the PEIA Task Force, call the Governor and call your Legislators, and do all that you can to education yourself to be a supporter of the Colorado Solution for PEIA and for West Virginia at the community. (Task Force members are listed at the end of this article)

            In addition to raising $100 million in tax revenues, stimulating middle class job growth, states that allow flowering and leaf cannabis see the largest decrease in opiate overdoses, as much as a 25% decrease of opiate overdoses on average in states that allow cannabis, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association study (JAMA). Additionally, the combined savings of states Medicaid and Medicare programs for decreased utilization of pharmaceutical benefits in states with access to flowering and leaf cannabis was $156 billion reductions in pharmaceutical benefit costs. Private insurers (including PEIA) should see similar reductions in pharmaceutical benefit utilization, if West Virginia citizens would be allowed access to flowering and leaf cannabis.

            This Colorado Solution (Take Action) also follows from the advice of the WV Medical Cannabis Advisory Board and their recommendations, adopted at their February 20, 2018 meeting, as published in their February 21, 2018 Report and Recommendations.

MEDICAL CANNABIS ACT IMPROVEMENTS – WV MEDICAL CANNABIS ADVISORY BOARD RECOMMENDATIONS

CANNABIS IS LEGAL IN WEST VIRGINIA FOR MEDICINAL PURPOSES, AND THE ADVISORY BOARD IS TASKED WITH RECOMMENDING IMPROVEMENTS TO THE EXISTING, HOWEVER LIMITED, MEDICAL CANNABIS ACT.

RECOMMENDATION 2.1:
The inclusion of dry leaf and plant form of medical cannabis as medically appropriate for administration. This promotes patient access and patient choice in the market;

RECOMMENDATION 3.1:
Remove the limitations on the numbers of permits for growers, processors and dispensaries (current cap is 10 of each). Removing the limitation on growers, processors and dispensaries is necessary to promote adequate patient access, promotes a broader cross section of business interests able to participate in the market, increasing market viability, allowing for an increase in affordable patient access to medical cannabis. This promotes consumer choice in health care options;

RECOMMENDATION 3.3:
This recommendation was made based on their evaluation of the regulatory structure of the Act to ensure patient access to medical cannabis.

WEST VIRGINIA DHHR BUREAU FOR PUBLIC HEALTH – MEDICAL CANNABIS ADVISORY BOARD
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS FEBRUARY 21, 2018

These reasonable recommendations will need modified because of WV State Treasurer Perdue recommending March 1, that the state not bank medical cannabis money, meaning the only way to ensure and promote low cost access to medical cannabis is to allow patient and care giver a limited growing option (of up to 4 plants per qualified adult).

In the letter linked above, WV State Treasurer John Perdue decried banking medical cannabis money in West Virginia due to the absurd federal regulations criminalizing cannabis, seriously jeopardizing the infant WV Medical Cannabis program before it has even started.

However ludicrous the federal laws are regarding cannabis, West Virginia recognized in 2017 that cannabis has medicinal value. Cannabis is still prohibited and mistaken as a schedule 1 drug (having no medical value) due to historic racism beginning in the 1930’s, resulting in the prohibition of cannabis, which at the time even the American Medical Association was opposed to.

While Treasurer Perdue does point out that the Department of Justice is unlikely to go after people compliant with state cannabis laws, by refusing access to banking institutions in WV by the medical cannabis community, the Perdue letter has the potential to derail the already limited access to medicinal cannabis that the law (SB 386) supposedly allowed.

West Virginia recognized the fallacy of prohibiting cannabis on schedule 1 when the WV Medical Cannabis Act passed the WV Senate 28 to 6, and the House of Delegates 76 to 24, in favor of Senate Bill 386 (2017 Regular Session), which was signed into law by Governor Justice. This WV medical cannabis law is a good start, but it needs improved immediately – specifically to allow patient access to cannabis. It is clear from the Treasure Perdue letter, restricting access of the medical cannabis community from banking services, access to medical cannabis is all but certain to fail without patient grow.

Along that same line, the advisory board recommendations have very positive implications for the PEIA Colorado Solution, specifically promoting access to flower and leaf cannabis, recognizing the market forces that can be in play and recognizing the need to keep health care costs down, including medical cannabis and in turn PEIA costs. Reduced prescription benefit utilization alone could save PEIA millions of dollars.

With states that allow access to cannabis resulting in a 25% reduction in opiate overdoses, improving medical access makes sense. With reductions in pharmaceutical benefits in states that allow access to cannabis, decriminalization also makes immediate sense. With as much as $17 million in law enforcement costs for cannabis eradication alone, the savings to law enforcement, savings to the court and jail systems could also realize additional millions in savings and represents tax money priorities that could be better spent on PEIA, public employee pay raises and infrastructure.

Why the Colorado Solution?

A dedicated tax revenue stream for PEIA, money for public employee and teacher pay raises, potentially results in an average reduction of 25% of opiate overdoses in this state, results in decreased prescription drug benefit utilization of opiates (savings for PEIA), promotes consumer choice in health care options, stimulates the economy, promotes tourism, for each $100 million in cannabis tax revenue, estimates are as many as 10,000 middle class taxpaying jobs, and reduces law enforcement costs, reduces court and jail costs.

Mistakes of the past

While WV lawmakers got it right and passed an agricultural hemp law in the early 2000’s, it took more than 10 years to issue the first legislative rules for AG Hemp, leaving the state far behind Kentucky, who only passed an Ag Help law a few years ago, but have 1,000’s of acres in production, much more acres with seed in the ground than West Virginia. Lawmakers, to make matters worse, continue to confuse AG Hemp with medical and recreational cannabis. Restrictions on AG Hemp production, such as only allowing test plots by universities, stifles business creativity and hinders the development of the 26,000 consumer products that are made from hemp, according to the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture. Is West Virginia making the same mistakes with restricted access to medical cannabis that we have made with restrictions on the production of AG Hemp?

West Virginia recognized medicinal cannabis in 2017, but that law remains so restrictive, and adversely favorable to the big pharmaceutical industries which gave us the opiate prescription drug crisis in the first place, many suspect the WV Medical Cannabis law was designed to fail. Indeed, the limit of 10 dispensaries in a 55-county state means 45 of our counties will not have access to legal medical cannabis if the program can begin on time in 2019. There is no longer a disagreement about if medical cannabis is legal in West Virginia, it is, but there is certainly a mean-spirited movement to restrict, if not outright prohibit access to medical cannabis. Big business and pharmaceutical control over the medical cannabis playing field does not help patients suffering from the same pharmaceutical control now. Treasurer Perdue did not offer any solutions, and only served to create more hurdles in the way of medical cannabis administration.

A big problem is, If there are not enough growers, producers and not enough dispensaries (10 of each are authorized in SB 386), and if banks will really refuse to handle the medical cannabis money (who ever heard of such a thing right? Banks not wanting to handle hundreds of millions of dollars in cash, and states not wanting the tax revenues?), then the clear path forward is for West Virginia to allow medical cannabis patients and their care givers to grow up to 4 plants and 4 seedlings.

Similar to Washington DC, West Virginia could allow citizens to grow up to 4 plants per responsible adult, and allow the state sanctioned sale of medical cannabis in however restricted a form as current law provides, but the state also needs to decriminalize possession, saving valuable law enforcement, court and jail costs, and to really end the bureaucratic injustice of cannabis prohibition, the Legislature needs to prohibit civil asset forfeiture for the lawful use of medical cannabis by patients and care givers, with a steep fine and triple damages for civil asset forfeiture harassment.

Special Session for Medical Cannabis, Change.org – Petition for WV Medical Cannabis

“West Virginia patients are tired of being chemicalized by big pharmaceutical companies! We have the right to obtain cannabis from a dispensary at a realistic cost. Also, states with medicinal cannabis have seen a 25% decrease in overdose rates.”

What You Can Do:

Contact the Governor, the PEIA Task Force members, the PEIA Finance Board members, and contact your Legislators, ask them to support the Colorado Solution for PEIA, and to allow flowering leaf access for medical cannabis patients.

Ask for a Special Session of the West Virginia Legislature to fix the medical cannabis act to allow patient access through limited patient and care giver grow. Prohibit civil asset forfeiture against patients and care givers.

What West Virginia gains by adopting the “Colorado Solution” taxing the responsible adult use of Cannabis – for each $100 million in annual Cannabis tax revenue:

10,000 middle class taxpaying jobs
$60 million to shore up PEIA pharmaceutical inflation
$40 million for public employee and teacher pay
AND
The next $100 million in cannabis tax revenues could be dedicated for infrastructure

IS IT POSSIBLE?

Yes. Colorado had a record breaking $1.5 billion in recreational cannabis sales in 2017, raising over $200 million state tax revenues;
An average 25% reduction in opiate overdoses in states with access to cannabis flower and leaf;
Savings to PEIA program through reduced prescription drug utilization (Consumer choice)
Savings to law enforcement, court and jail systems – in the $10’s of millions

Additional information for those that want to take action.

Letters to the editors (including university newspapers)

 

Talk Radio:

WV Talk Line on WV Metro News, with Hoppy Kercheval

M – F 10:00 am to 12:00 noon

Hoppy’s “Steam Release” (call in vent line) each Friday morning from 11:30 am to 12:00 noon. 1-800-765-8255

Email Hoppy: Talkline@wvmetronews.com

Charleston Gazette-Mail Readers Vent Line (30 second anonymous voice mail)

(304) 348-1775

Jim Justice

Office of the Governor

State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E

Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone: (304) 558-2000

 

Nick Rahall: Three ways WV can fight this opioid scourge

By Nick Rahall, Op-Ed

Charleston Gazette-Mail

March 18, 2018

 

PEIA TASK FORCE (34) MEMBERS:

Greg Burton, chief executive officer of Brickstreet Insurance
Andy Paterno, chief executive officer of Centurion Insurance Services
Joe Letnaunchyn, president and CEO, West Virginia Hospital Association
Rob Alsop, vice president for strategic initiatives, West Virginia University
Nelson Spencer, McDowell County Schools superintendent
Perry Bryant, founder, West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare
Senator Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson)
Senator Robert Plymale (D-Wayne)
Senator Craig Blair (R-Berkeley)
Delegate Eric Nelson (R-Kanawha)
Delegate Roger Hanshaw (R-Clay)
Delegate Mick Bates (D-Raleigh)
Geoff Christian, current member of the PEIA Finance Board
Christine Campbell, president, American Federation of Teachers West Virginia
Dale Lee, president, West Virginia Education Association
James “Joe” White, Executive Director, West Virginia School Service Personnel Association
Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner of Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health and State Health Officer
Douglas Kirk, Division of Highways
Lieutenant Michael LaFauci, West Virginia State Police
Jeffrey Reed, retired Wood Circuit Court judge
Judy Hale, retired public educator and former AFT president
Beth “Buffy” Hammers, chief executive officer, Marshall Health
Helen Matheny, director of collaborative relations and initiatives, WVU Health Sciences Center
Lisa M. Simon, certified public accountant, Wheeling
Sarita Beckett, public school teacher, Raleigh County
Dr. Sherri Young, Medicare medical director, Aetna Insurance
Amy Loring, human resources director and director of staffing and employee relations, Berkeley County Schools
Marty Becker, chairman of the board of directors, QBE Insurance Group