Medical marijuana use was signed into law in 2017, but West Virginia residents may be waiting awhile longer to see the reality of such a law — according to members of a panel held at the Culture Center in Charleston Jan. 4.

The professionals in attendance for the panel included Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha; Dr. James H. Berry, medical director at West Virginia University’s Chestnut Ridge Center and Acute Dual Diagnosis Program; Diana Stout, the general counsel for the West Virginia State Treasurer’s office; and W. Jesse Forbes, a member of the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.

The idea of creating an effective financial system for medical marijuana in the state by July 2019 seems to be a bit far-fetched, particularly when considering the banking issues faced by marijuana businesses when banks operate under federal laws. The panel discussed some measures already in place to protect businesses from federal prosecution using federal money. They also discussed the possibility of credit unions as an option to help marijuana businesses manage funds.

Dr. Berry felt that more research is needed for better understanding of the use of marijuana for medical treatment. The panel as a whole engaged in a debate on the potential benefits of marijuana in terms of health and pain management.

Dr. Berry also seemed dubious that legalizing marijuana can help address serious issues like an opioid epidemic. This was despite evidence regarding such a correlation in Colorado since recreational marijuana use was legalized.

Pushkin noted that the fact that marijuana is non-addictive and non-lethal (compared to alcohol or other legal substances), as well as the idea that the introduction of this alternative for pain management would have a positive effect on the struggle against opioids, are arguments in favour of legalization.

One contribution from Forbes was a confirmation that the Cannabis Advisory Board has already issued some recommendations on the best way to move forward and improve current laws. Meanwhile, the outcome of the panel discussion seems to indicate a lot of the technical details remain undetermined when it comes to medical marijuana use for West Virginia residents.