Sunday, March 27, 2016

WVU College of Law hosts first Strategic Cannabis Conference

By Kayla Asbury

In addition to the festivities of St. Patrick’s Day, West Virginia doctors, lawyers and policy experts met March 17 to discuss something green.
West Virginia University’s College of Law held the first Strategic Cannabis Conference on Industrial and Medical Uses Thursday, inviting professionals to discuss creating the "Gold Standard" of cannabis in West Virginia.
The event centered on utilizing cannabis agriculturally and medically to combat the state’s $380 million budget deficit, as well as the opioid epidemic and unemployment rates in the state.
"We believe (this event) is very appropriate to have at the College of Law and to have at the University," said Jesse Richardson, an associate professor of law at WVU.
The event was split into three specific discussions, with multiple speakers for each category. The event gave a legal overview of cannabis, and discussions on medical and industrial cannabis.
Richardson, while giving a brief history of cannabis laws in the country and West Virginia specifically, stated West Virginia has ideal terrain to grow hemp, and would redevelop the coalfields.
"If we could come up with a legal crop in agriculture that farmers could actually make a little money, that would be huge in West Virginia," Richardson said.
Richardson sited one of the problems with using marijuana medically in the state is its lack of traceability.
Cody Stiffler, the vice president of government affairs for BioTrakTHC, offered his company as a solution to the problem of traceability.
BioTrakTHC, a start-up company specializing in tracking every portion of cannabis production and sales, from seeds, to plants, to waste, brags it is "the only seed to sale solution."
Crystal Good, a West Virginia poet and advocate, spoke about how cannabis was a plant that could bring success to the mountain state.
"Now is the time to be creative and tough when it comes to ending the prohibition on prosperity," Good said.
The idea that the cannabis industry is evil is what prevents it from becoming popular in the state’s culture, according to Good.
"The evolution of West Virginia depends of truthful and deliberate cannabis industry education," Good said.
The event was organized by J. Morgan Leach, a third year law student at WVU and executive director of the West Virginia Hemp Farmers Cooperative and speaker at the conference.
"Our species has coevolved with cannabis at our side," Leach said. "We’ve used it for food. We’ve used it for fiber. We’ve used it for medicine for thousands of years…"
Cannabis has been the most beneficial plant to our species, according to Leach.
"We’ve made it illegal at our own dismay," Leach said. "Our decisions have been based on fear. If we allow ourselves to continue to base our decisions on fear, we will give that fear disproportionate attention and manufacture the very circumstances we wish to avoid."
Ignorance and common misconceptions about cannabis are what prevent development of medical marijuana and a thriving industrial cannabis business in West Virginia, according to Dr. Clark Milton from the Wheeling Hospital in Wheeling, West Virginia.
"We’re not very knowledgeable…. about the legality issue and the repression of research…." Milton said. "In 2016, we need evidence, not belief."
West Virginia is one of the 27 states allowing for production of industrial hemp, and Leach spoke in hope that the conference would inspire those in attendance to continue to make strides toward a prosperous cannabis culture in West Virginia.
"As is our motto here at West Virginia University, we should all go first in this industry, together…" Leach said. "We need help push our nation forward with cannabis cultivation, both industrial and medical."

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