- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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June 24

The Herald-Dispatch says inaction raises doubts about medical marijuana in West Virginia:

West Virginians will get an inkling within the next few months whether their lawmakers and governor were serious when those officials last year approved establishing a medical marijuana program in the Mountain State.



The telltale signs will be whether they take any action this summer to move the program toward being ready about a year from now, when the approved legislation said medical marijuana products could be sold in the state.

As of now, there is plenty of work yet to be done if that target is to be met, and progress will be needed long before the next regular legislative session begins in January. Little of substance has been done so far this year.

The West Virginia Cannabis Act passed the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice in April 2017. It established the parameters of a medical marijuana industry in West Virginia, setting limits on the number of growers at 10 and dispensaries at 30. It set fees and procedures the growers and dispensaries must follow and established how patients prescribed medical marijuana would be enabled to purchase it.

The legislation was hotly debated at the time. Advocates pointed to the medical benefits for many patients and the contributions that a medical marijuana industry would make to the state’s economy. Opponents cited concerns about marijuana being a gateway drug and the poor message that legalization would send while the state is in the throes of an opioid crisis. But after lawmakers worked out compromises, the act passed.

The law also established a 13-member Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, which was appointed and had its first meeting last summer. That group has accomplished some work. In February, it delivered recommendations to the governor and the legislature for what its members believe would improve the planned industry, with an eye toward ensuring the marijuana-based medicines would be accessible to patients.

But there’s been no action on those suggestions. There is also another major obstacle: How to carry out financial transactions in the industry. That was an issue uncovered in February, when it was determined that banks in West Virginia are unwilling to participate in the exchange of money in the medical marijuana system out of fear of repercussions from federal agencies. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Legislative leaders and the governor had the opportunity to address some of the medical marijuana issues during a special session in May, but the topic was not put on the agenda. State Treasurer John Perdue’s office has developed two options for dealing with the money-handling issue, which will require legislative action.

At this point, there is no word about any plans to call another special session to deal with the marijuana matters.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on putting the system in place to allow enough time for growers to develop products in time for next year’s supposed start of the industry in West Virginia.

If Justice and the legislature truly want the medical marijuana industry to benefit the state and patients, they had better act soon. Otherwise, the public could well assume they are simply stalling.

Online: http://www.herald-dispatch.com/

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June 26

The Charleston Gazette says West Virginia must anticipate the needs of children affected by the opioid scourge:

The worst child welfare problem since the Great Depression. That’s how Jeremiah Samples, deputy director of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources described the rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome in the state - possibly 5 percent of all live births, according to a government count.

Babies exposed to various substances can be born literally addicted to drugs. After birth, they go through withdrawal symptoms, including tremors. The most recent scourge, and what accounts for the increase, is opioids. Opioid exposure can also contribute to birth defects.

West Virginia’s count is higher than the official measure from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is measured differently and includes hospital data only through 2016. Even that count puts West Virginia at the top of the list among 21 states that have data, the DHHR told lawmakers on Monday.

As terrible as this news is, it is a credit to the DHHR that staff members are monitoring and counting babies born with these problems. West Virginia cannot respond to a problem that it doesn’t know about and accurately measure.

The state has been increasing the rate of adoption for years. Permanent homes are best for children who cannot be reunited with their parents. But as hard as they worked to recruit new adoptive homes, one retired child welfare worker commented in recent years that the number of children taken into state custody just kept climbing. “We can’t catch it,” he said at the time.

This week’s numbers support his observation. West Virginia ranks at the top of the nation in removing children from their homes. Children in state custody increased 46 percent from October 2014 to October of 2017.

Eighty-five percent of open child abuse and neglect cases involve drugs.

Child welfare workers say the age of children being removed from their homes is getting younger. Where child welfare agencies served mostly middle- and high-school aged children a decade ago, they are increasingly pressed to serve small children.

In a recent commentary, teacher Christine Harrison, of Putnam County, said children are beginning to arrive in preschool with special needs caused by opioid exposure.

“These children are likely to exhibit cognitive impairments, speech and language disorders, significant behavior and attention issues, and fine motor impairments,” Harrison wrote. “Yet they don’t respond to typical methods used to diagnose, educate and create therapy treatments for similar children who exhibit disorders or delays. We need specialized training and resources to serve these children.”

As this generation of West Virginians matures and moves through school and life, individuals will have special needs and challenges. West Virginia must anticipate these needs and rise to meet them, as lawmakers and DHHR staff were laying groundwork for this week.

Online: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/

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June 26

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel advocates for scheduling students for health exams:

Beginning with this past school year, West Virginia public schools required new students entering pre-K or kindergarten, and students entering 2nd and 7th grades to show proof of a dental examination and HealthCheck/comprehensive health examination before entering school. This is in addition to the requirement for scheduled vaccinations - including the Tdap and meningitis shots, of course.

The requirements apply to students entering 12th grade for the upcoming school year.

It is a change to which many parents have yet to become accustomed, but if it has slipped your mind, summer is the perfect time to schedule an appointment. The start of the next school year is coming faster than one might think.

These new requirements are meant not only to help parents keep their own children healthier and more ready to learn; they affect the health of the schools and communities as a whole. Parents with infants or elderly relatives at home will have less worry that an unvaccinated child will carry a deadly disease into the school, which might then be carried home by another child.

Those who are uncertain of the new requirements and their timing should check with the school systems, and dental and healthcare providers.

Get this one taken care of, now.

Online: http://www.newsandsentinel.com/

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