According to its website, LEAP favors "a tight system of legalized regulation, which will effectively cripple the violent cartels and street dealers who control the current illegal market."
Simon visited Charleston to attend the Dec. 11 informational forum chaired by Manypenny in the Capitol's House of Delegates chamber.
"It is better to regulate and tax marijuana so that it is not sold by others who sell other drugs," Simon said during an interview.
"Today, there are 2.3 million Americans behind bars in prison, the highest rate in the world. And it hasn't worked to scare people out of marijuana use."
Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton recently admitted the "drug war" policies they pursued were not effective.
And last week, an editorial in the San Francisco Examiner praised President Obama for saying federal agents would not arrest pot users in Washington and Colorado.
Paul Clancy, a physician from Spencer, and Aila Accad, president-elect of the West Virginia Nurses Association, also spoke at Manypenny's forum in support of approving medical marijuana.
Simon said marijuana-based medicines can help people who face a variety of health problems, including cancer, nerve damage and pain, multiple sclerosis and AIDS.
"Opiates don't help as much with neuropathic pain. Marijuana also helps reduce peoples' dependencies on drugs like Lortab, Percodan and Oxycontin," Simon said.
Manypenny believes legalizing marijuana, at least for medical purposes, also could help the state's underfunded drug treatment programs.
"We should use these taxes to fund treatment programs for substance abuse in West Virginia, as well as prevention programs in our schools that are also underfunded."
Manypenny said his bill also would "alleviate pressure on our overcrowded prison system. Most of the states that have passed legislation to legalize marijuana have seen a decrease in actual substance abuse in their populations."
"The best treatment for opiate addition is medical marijuana," he said, pointing out that "only about 8 percent of the population becomes physically addicted" to that treatment.
Manypenny believes medical patients should have the option of trying drugs made from marijuana. "Some don't want to take opiates because they don't want to be addicted to them.
"I also introduced another bill to allow for home confinement, instead of imprisonment, for minor drug abuses," Manypenny said.
Hillenbrand pointed out that people who support legalizing marijuana do not necessarily approve of its use.
"Just as alcohol prohibition was repealed because people recognized that prohibition did not work, marijuana prohibition is ending because prohibition absolutely does not work."
Many people who oppose alcohol and marijuana prohibition do not advocate the use of either substance.
Marijuana is a thriving agricultural product in Appalachia, where its cultivation is a growing business in the poorest parts of the region.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported in a Dec. 4 article that federal, state and local law enforcement officers have already confiscated more than $1.5 billion worth of marijuana this year in central Appalachia.
Ed Shemelya, head of marijuana eradication in the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, told the newspaper that aerial surveillance discovered nearly 770,000 plants in the mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee.
Today, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimates the value of a mature marijuana plant is about $2,000.
"The Appalachian region, a haven for moonshiners during Prohibition, has a near-perfect climate for marijuana cultivation, plus remote forests that help growers camouflage their crops," the Herald-Leader reported.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.