Republican lawmakers are often seen as a bunch of stodgy conservatives who are practically allergic to progress, but they've recently been defying those stereotypes by stepping up efforts to legalize medical marijuana across America. In fact, the last three state legislatures to legalize medicinal cannabis use - Louisiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania - were dominated by Republicans.
Now West Virginia is poised to become the fourth state to legalize medical marijuana thanks to strong Republican support in the legislature. The Republican-dominated Senate and House in West Virginia recently passed a legalization bill by margins of 28-6 and 76-24 . Now the bill is off to Democratic Governor Jim Justice, who is expected to sign the bill into law, proving that medical marijuana is an issue that lawmakers of all political stripes can support.
“There is nearly universal support for legalizing medical marijuana in the U.S., and it spans the political spectrum,” Matt Simon - a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) - said via press release following the passage of the bill.
“This is the third state in a row to pass a medical marijuana bill through a Republican-controlled House and Senate. Hopefully, this is a trend that will continue with some other states and at the federal level.”
The bill was approved by the Senate last week and then sent to the House, which approved it last Tuesday. That's remarkably speedy given how long it can take for legislation to get through the legislature and onto the governor's desk. But Simon added that for people who desperately need access to medicinal cannabis, the bill can't move fast enough.
“This will be an important and, in some cases, life-saving program,” Simon said. “It is critical that the state implement it promptly. We are committed to working with officials to make sure the program is as effective as possible and to get it up and running in a timely fashion. Many patients cannot afford to wait much longer.”
Once Governor Justice signs the bill, West Virginia will officially become the 30th state to legalize medical marijuana. With three-fifths of the country onboard with reform, the pressure on the federal government to officially recognize marijuana as medicine will intensify.