OAK HILL – Medical marijuana and industrial hemp are derived from the cannabis plant, and while each serve vastly different purposes they both have the opportunity to cure.
Many would say curing the ills of West Virginia starts with the economy. It's no secret that a state once booming with coal mines now finds itself near rock bottom. So what are the solutions?
Officials at the Department of Agriculture say abandoned mine lands can be turned into hemp fields; a crop that can survive in nearly any terrain or climate.
And medical marijuana may find its use in easing the pain of those afflicted with disease from years of working underground.
Dept. of Agriculture spokesperson Butch Antolini says it’ll grow well in the Mountain State.
“People that live in the southern part of the state will tell you it thrives, people in Kentucky will tell you it thrives as well.”
Kentucky and West Virginia aren't often thought of as thriving economic hubs. But that's exactly what official’s think could happen.
“We have the land, we have the water, we have a methodology to get it out with the rail, we have a workforce that could do that,” says Democratic representative in the West Virginia House of Delegates, Clif Moore.
“I don't think you have to meet a lot of physical requirements to do it,” adds Moore, signaling that it could be a driving force to a new form of economic development.
The benefit of hemp over other agriculture crops is its versatility and resiliency, which makes it viable for the mountainous terrain of West Virginia.
“It doesn't necessarily need to be planted on flat land, it can be planted on slopes,” says Antolini.
Moore says something needs to be done and this is a great opportunity to change the course.
“It’s a non-traditional means of agriculture that we could use to create jobs, create economy, so people in these towns that were thriving with railroads, and coal, and wood, and all those things that are now dying on the vine.”]
Oak Hill doctor, Hassan Amjad believes that change is just a matter of time.
“I think it's going to happen because the public opinion is shifting. We are a conservative state; I think we'll be the last one holding on.”
What exactly will happen and how soon remain to be seen, but the shift in opinion, even with those who stand against marijuana is evident.
“Clearly two separate issues – the medical use or the decriminalization of marijuana as opposed to the growing and use of hemp as a commodity,” says Republican House member Daryl Cowles.
“If it works, we can expand it not only Southern West Virginia, but the rest of the state,” says Moore, utilizing a phrase not often heard in these parts,
“I think it's good agri-nomics for the people of West Virginia.”
So can cannabis cure? That's for you to decide if and when it comes to vote. There are pro's and con's to every story, and this debate will continue raging on.
View pt. I: Medical Marijuana.
View pt. II: Industrial Hemp.