CHARLESTON — A poll released Tuesday shows a majority of West Virginia voters think the state should enact a law allowing seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
According to the survey, which was conducted last week by Public Policy Polling (PPP), voters in the state support medical marijuana by a 13-point margin, with 53% in favor and just 40% opposed.
The poll also found that West Virginia voters are increasingly recognizing the relative safety of marijuana compared to prescription painkillers. Specifically, it found that 63% of voters think marijuana is a safer means of treating debilitating pain than OxyContin. A plurality said they believe marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.
“Many West Virginians could potentially benefit from the use of medical marijuana where other drugs have failed,” said Dr. Paul Clancy, an emergency physician based in Spencer. “No patient battling a serious medical condition should have to risk possible arrest and imprisonment for using a medicine most West Virginians recognize as being safer than OxyContin.”
The poll results come as Delegate Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor) prepares to introduce a bill in this year’s legislative session that would allow people with certain debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana with a recommendation from their physician.
“Our state is ready for a serious conversation about this compassionate legislation, and we hope it receives a fair hearing,” said Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “A majority of voters agree that it’s time to stop criminalizing people who use marijuana responsibly to treat their conditions and alleviate their pain.”
“West Virginia should not be in the business of arresting and prosecuting seriously ill people who are simply trying to improve their quality of life,” Simon said.
The PPP poll also found that a plurality of voters support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession by all adults and replacing them with a civil infraction and fine, similar to a parking ticket.
The survey of 1,232 West Virginia voters was conducted January 7-9.
The full results can be downloaded at http://www.mpp.org/WVpoll