So far, 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana to ease pain and nausea of cancer and AIDS victims, and reduce muscle spasms of multiple sclerosis patients, and to soothe other sufferers. We assume that more states will follow this compassionate trend as U.S. morality keeps evolving. Polls find a majority of Americans now approve legalization.
As an added benefit, licensing medical pot sales provides extra government revenue -- gaining funds that are lost to the public when the mild drug is sold only through the criminal black market.
Still another benefit: Sufferers who self-medicate with black-market marijuana may face police charges, but this risk and disgrace is removed when medical use is legal.
Repeated attempts in West Virginia's Legislature to join the social change have produced little result so far, except recurring studies. But observers think the time may be right for solid action when the 2014 session begins next month.
We can't see any reason why West Virginia shouldn't become the 21st legal state.
Seventeen-year physician Paul Clancy of Spencer wrote that painkiller pills have given West Virginia the worst overdose death rate in America -- so it's absurd to criminalize harmless pot while making deadly pills legal. Likewise, he pointed out, tobacco and alcohol cause terrible harm, but gentle marijuana doesn't. It's senseless to legalize the dangerous products and criminalize the beneficial one.
"The evidence in support of allowing medical marijuana is overwhelming," he wrote. "The benefits are great, and the drawbacks are minimal, if they exist at all. It is time for our state to stop spending its limited resources arresting and prosecuting seriously ill people who are using marijuana in the treatment of their conditions."
Some mental patients also self-medicate with pot. Addiction Treatment magazine commented recently:
"The chemical properties of cannabis produce effects that can temporarily act as a mood enhancer, which may produce short-term relief of symptoms in disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety cluster disorders. The chemical composition of cannabis makes it an ideal short-term combatant of mood-related symptoms."
The U.S. government, steered by conservatives in Congress, still considers all marijuana illegal. But mainstream America is abandoning that view. We hope West Virginia joins the ongoing shift in values.