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Medicinal marijuana really up to Washington

Are we human beings so incompetent that we cannot find a way to make THC available to people it might help with serious medical conditions, while avoiding one more substance abuse problem?

Maybe so. But regardless of whether a workable system can be found, there’s an obstacle: Marijuana is illegal by federal statute.

How is it that 28 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam have eliminated or at least amended state bans on use of marijuana or derivatives containing THC, the active ingredient?

Two words: Barack Obama. During his eight years in office, he made it clear federal authorities would not enforce laws with which he disagreed. Marijuana is in that category.

Most of the states that have gone against the federal ban have done so because of compassion. Only about seven have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

Ohio lawmakers are among those who think THC — but not marijuana — should be available to people suffering from certain illnesses. State officials continue studying just how to make that happen, however.

Their concerns are valid. Many law enforcement officials warn that legalizing THC in any form, for any purpose, risks aggravating existing substance abuse problems and creating new ones. Avoiding that is why it is taking so long for Ohio to get rules for medicinal use of THC in place.

The issue came up last week in the West Virginia House of Delegates. There, Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, proposed an amendment that would have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes.

It was shot down in flames. The vote, 64-35, wasn’t even close — though six of the nine Northern Panhandle delegates voted for it.

Fluharty’s amendment, co-sponsored by Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, would have allowed people to obtain marijuana only with a prescription written by a physician.

Here’s the thing, as a friend pointed out to me: So what if West Virginia does legalize medicinal marijuana? What happens if President Donald Trump takes his oath of office seriously and instructs the Drug Enforcement Administration to start busting outlets where marijuana, for recreational or medicinal use, is being sold?

If the stuff is so great, why hasn’t the Food and Drug Administration recommended it be legalized?

FDA officials have refused to do that, citing potential dangers and lack of evidence THC really is effective as a medicine.

Perhaps they should conduct more research, with some of it not discounting the psychological effect. After all, if THC can help a starving cancer patient eat, who cares how it happens?

But this is the same FDA that routinely delays helpful drugs and health care devices. Remember the blowup last year over high-priced EpiPens? Had the FDA approved more companies to make and distribute the devices, there would have been competition driving prices down.

I happen to think medical marijuana is worth considering. But my friend is right: The ball on that is in Washington’s court, not at the state capitols.

Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register.

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