Decriminalization vs. Legalization in West Virginia
West Virginia lawmakers approved a medical marijuana program in 2017, and qualifying patients are finally registering this year. Meanwhile supporters of widespread cannabis reform are hopeful that West Virginia will follow in Virginia’s footsteps and legalize, or at least decriminalize, all adult cannabis use.
At West Virginia Marijuana Card, our team of compassionate professionals guides qualifying patients through each step of the medical marijuana registration process. We’re also a leading source of cannabis news, lifestyle coverage, and practical advice.
Read on to learn more about the difference between legalization and decriminalization, plus the latest on West Virginia’s medical marijuana program.
What does it mean to legalize adult use of recreational cannabis?
Legalizing adult use of recreational cannabis means granting anyone over age 21 the right to legally possess, consume, and purchase a set amount of cannabis for any reason. In some states, it also means that adults would be able to grow a limited number of cannabis plants at home.
Virginia recently made history by becoming the first southern state to legalize recreational adult use of cannabis. One reason the state gave for moving forward with this legislation was a need to curb the disproportionate arrest rates of BIPOC for marijuana possession.
Another reason was legalization’s potential to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths.
West Virginia lawmakers have shown interest in legalizing adult use of recreational cannabis largely due to its potential to end the opioid epidemic as well as its potential to generate tax-based revenue.
A few bills are slowly making their way through committees in the state house and senate, and Governor Jim Justice has publicly expressed the willingness to sign them if they end up on his desk. Despite this potential step forward, legalization isn’t coming to West Virginia any time soon.
What does it mean to decriminalize adult cannabis use?
An alternative to legalization, decriminalization makes adult possession of cannabis punishable by a small fine and no jail time. In this framework, possessing or consuming cannabis is still a crime, but it’s reduced to a misdemeanor on par with minor traffic violations.
Decriminalization can happen at the federal, state, or local level. Some legislators prefer it to legalization because it gives law enforcement officers the leeway to charge violators as they see fit, either using the new reduced penalties or using existing punitive measures.
Meanwhile, other legislators argue that it’s better to fully legalize adult cannabis use because this leads to better regulation and quality control, while also holding law enforcement more accountable for treating everyone equally.
In practice, decriminalization often serves as a type of stepping stone toward legalization. However, West Virginia recently voted down a measure to go ahead and decriminalize cannabis while the bills for legalization linger in limbo.
How do legalization and decriminalization affect medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana programs exist separately from both legalization and decriminalization. They allow qualified patients to possess quantities of cannabis that sometimes exceed the limits set by legalization and decriminalization measures.
As a result, medical marijuana programs remain the most reliable way to legally obtain high quality, well regulated cannabis.
This year, West Virginia’s medical marijuana program is actively registering patients and licensing both production facilities and dispensaries. By the end of 2021, it’s likely that West Virginia medical marijuana cardholders will be able to visit a dispensary and purchase cannabis with ease.
Ready to register for your WV medical marijuana card?
From gathering medical records, to scheduling your first doctor’s visit, to providing ongoing follow-up care, West Virginia Marijuana Card is here to help you with each step of the process.
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If you have any questions, call us at 877-303-8424, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!
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