West Virginia’s medical marijuana bill, Senate Bill 386, is one of many in the country that has been introduced in response to the national opioid crisis. Unfortunately, West Virginia has been one of the states hardest hit by this epidemic. This article will explore how medical marijuana can help fight the opioid crisis and what SB386 does for the state of West Virginia.
West Virginia, the Opioid Crisis, and Medical Marijuana
West Virginia’s population has been one of the hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. Approximately 29 people per 100,000 died from prescription opioids between 1999-2014. Since the epidemic began in the 1990s, about half a million people nationwide have died from overdoses of prescription opioids alone. With a population of 1.8 million, West Virginia has lost 6,800 residents to overdoses since 1999.
This rate is eight times the national average and twice the average of all states with the following highest rates. In addition, West Virginia had, until recently, one of the highest rates of first-time opioid prescriptions. Between 2013-2014, West Virginia doctors wrote 52 opioid prescriptions for every 100 people in the state. Only Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee had higher rates.
In West Virginia, the opioid crisis was responsible for the highest premature death rate in the country. The state had the highest rate of premature deaths at 7.6%, followed by Kentucky at 7.2% and Michigan at 7%.
Past drug use is one factor that hinders a person’s economic productivity, longevity, and quality of life; an estimated 60% of people who have experienced past drug use will lose some level of productivity at some point during their lifetime.
Moreover, one in ten babies in the state was born addicted to prescription opioids and heroin between 2011-2013. Unfortunately, these statistics have only increased since then.
The number of overdoses and deaths has been steadily increasing over the years. As a result, more than 3,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016 alone. In 2017, West Virginia ranked number one as the state worst affected by the opioid epidemic, which has been ongoing for decades.
These statistics are startling and have been making headlines in recent years. In other words, a solution had to be found fast.
As one can see, West Virginia has struggled to combat its opioid crisis for years. Finally, however, a glimmer of hope warmed up the West Virginia residents’ hearts as the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law by President Trump.
This bill created three new initiatives that provide financial incentives for states to invest in prescription drug monitoring programs, thus limiting the number of people who become dependent on opioids. It is one of West Virginia’s many steps to combat the opioid crisis. However, as of now, West Virginia still only has a prescription drug monitoring program in place.
Medical Marijuana in West Virginia
One of the potential solutions to this crisis was the legalization of West Virginia medical marijuana. The Medical Cannabis Act passed and signed into law in 2017 in West Virginia ensured that thousands of residents with qualifying conditions had access to medical marijuana. The state considers medicinal cannabis as an alternative treatment for severe chronic conditions. In addition, West Virginia residents now have operational dispensaries, processors, and growers to rely on.
According to the state’s statistics, thousands of people were approved for medical marijuana cards. Doctors and officials hope this alternative treatment option meets patients’ needs and care preferences, simultaneously alleviating the opioid crisis and boosting the state’s economy.
As a tip for beginner entrepreneurs in the field of medical marijuana, you should talk to a specialized marijuana business law firm to help you start a business in the medical or recreational marijuana industry.
Veterans can also obtain legal access to marijuana as prescribed by their doctors. This program was a joint effort between the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Veteran Affairs to make medical marijuana more accessible to veterans with PTSD and chronic pain. This program is essential for veterans in West Virginia because, according to the VA, 9% of veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq have post-traumatic stress disorder. Other statistics claim that 25 out of every 100 people who have served or are serving on active duty have PTSD, chronic pain, or both.