by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — Despite having moved what is commontly referred to as the Medical Marijuana Bill to the floor for second reading today, legislators agreed to Judiciary Committee Chair John Shott’s request for at least two more days to “revise” the bill.
In what most considered a surprise Thursday evening and a challenge to House leadership, the House voted to “discharge” the bill and move it directly to the floor. The State Senate-passed bill was expected to receive at least two committee assignments in House Speaker Tim Armstead, a Republican, decided to act on it at all.
Democrat State Senators were complaining on social media and to the press earlier Thursday that Armstead did not intend to deal with the bill at all, thus killing it for this session.
The vote to discharge included mostly Democrats, who are in a significant minority in the House. The issue divided delegates not only by political party but also by district, with those representing the same district often voting on opposite sides to discharge the bill. Interestingly, two former Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. grandsons, Riley Moore and Moore Capito voted against each other on the issue. Moore voted to take the bill directly to the House floor while Capito voted against it.
Some Southern coalfield delegates voted to discharge the legislation while others did not. Among those voting to bring the issue to the floor were Kanawha County’s Andrew Bird, Mike Pushkin Charlotte Lane, Andrew Robinson, Larry Rowe and Brad White; Lincoln’s Jeff Eldridge and Zack Maynard; Mingo’s Mark Dean and Justin Marcum; Boone’s Rodney Miller; and Independent Rupie Phillips.
Voting against the measure, in addition to Capito who represents Kanawha, were Putnam County’s Geoff Foster and Nancy Foster; Clay’s Roger Hanshaw; Kanawha’s Eric Nelson, Ron Walters and Armstead; and Cabell County’s Kelli Sobonya and Carol Miller.
The bill was expected to be on second reading today but will now be pushed back to Monday after supporters of the bill apparently agreed with Shott that it “needs work.”
Freshman State Senator Richard Ojeda of Logan County has been the primary proponent of the measure in the Senate.