We did not send surveys to candidates for federal office, but marijuana policy has come up as an issue in races for U.S. House and Senate.
U.S. Senate — Democratic Candidates
In the race for U.S. Senate, incumbent Senator Joe Manchin (D) has not supported legalization, but he has voted to protect state medical cannabis programs from federal interference.
Manchin’s primary opponent, Paula Jean Swearengin (D), has indicated strong support for legalization. “We need to end the addiction epidemic and we need a diverse economy,” she was recently quoted saying. “How are we going to see a diverse economy in West Virginia? The first step is the decriminalization of marijuana/cannabis and legalization. We could see economic growth within six to eight months, so not only are we going to reap medical benefits but that is a start for the growth of Appalachia… We can legalize marijuana. Look at Colorado. The model is there. It’s set in place and it can serve us.”
U.S. Senate — Republican Candidates
The three Republicans who are running for U.S. Senate discussed marijuana policy at a debate hosted by WSAZ in April. According to tweets posted by reporter Kelsey Hoak, Rep. Evan Jenkins (R) opposes “recreational marijuana” and has voted against protecting state medical cannabis programs from federal interference, but he now says he believes medical cannabis is a states’ rights issue. Don Blankenship says “he would like to read more about it before he votes on it.” State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said, “we should be open minded if it could provide relief for those hurting.”
U.S. Congress — District 1
In West Virginia’s first Congressional district, incumbent Rep. David McKinley (R) has voted against protecting state medical cannabis programs from federal interference. Democratic candidate Kendra Fershee has been quoted saying, “The federal government is in the way of states that want to control their own cannabis destiny, and I think the feds need to stop obstructing this because it is a safe pain management. It’s also a revenue driver. We need new sources of revenue the state can tax. We can’t just keep doing things the way we’ve always been doing them.”
U.S. Congress — District 2
In West Virginia’s second Congressional district, incumbent Rep. Alex Mooney (R) has voted in favor of protecting state medical cannabis programs from federal interference. Democratic candidates Talley Sergent and Aaron Scheinberg have both reportedly indicated support for medical cannabis. Sergent, in particular, was quoted saying, “I support legalization of medical cannabis right now in a way that actually serves the people who suffer, whether it’s a veteran with PTSD, whether it’s helping West Virginians get off the superhighway of opioid and other drug abuse.”
U.S. Congress — District 3
The race for West Virginia’s third Congressional district is open, since incumbent Rep. Evan Jenkins (R) is running for Senate. The Democratic primary features one of the state’s most ardent supporters of cannabis policy reform, state Senator Richard Ojeda, who championed SB 386, the bill that created West Virginia’s medical cannabis law. On his campaign website, Ojeda describes medical cannabis as “a good step in fighting the opioid epidemic.” The list of Republican candidates includes two delegates, Carol Miller and Marty Gearheart, who both voted against the House motion to consider SB 386. Miller and Gearheart both also voted for the amendment that severely restricted the bill. After the bill was amended, Miller voted to pass it and Gearheart voted to kill it.
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