READINGS: ‘Can Marijuana Save Coal Country?’

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READINGS:  WestVirginiaVille Recommends
By Mark Lynne Ferguson | The Washington Post | 08.10.17
“Can mairjuana rescue coal country?”

It’s de rigeur in the comments sections of West Virginia media whenever the state’s economic woes are discussed. Someone will quickly suggest bringing the state’s underground and widespread marijuana industry to the surface, legalize what is reputed to be West Virginia’s number one or number two cash crop and rescue the place from itself. The West Virginia Legislature took the first few  — albeit halting, but nonetheless forward — steps toward legalization this year, passing a law that allows for medical marijuana under very constrained circumstances. But still — the law passed and the door to legalization has been cracked. Meanwhile, the conundrums of a state with one of its largest cash crops hidden in a thousand hollers, remains.  A relatively new argument for legalization in recent years is that the easy availability of weed could go a long way toward reducing the state’s horrific opioid epidemic. Mark Lynne Ferguson’s absorbing, well-told tale in the Washington Post reads like a short story as it tells the tale of a devoted West Virginia pot farmer whose passion for weed farming was helping wean friends and customers off pain pills, before he got busted. And how he’s hoping to snag one of the few medical marijuana slots allowed under the new state law. Raw, close-to-the-ground reporting and story-telling of real lives.

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“Can marijuana rescue coal country?”
By Mark Lynne Ferguson | The Washington Post | 08.10.17
Johnsie Gooslin spent Jan. 16, 2015, tending his babies — that’s what he called his marijuana plants. More than 70 of them were growing in a hydroponic system of his own design. Sometimes, he’d stay in his barn for 16 hours straight, perfecting his technique.

That night, he left around 8 o’clock to head home. The moon was waning, down to a sliver, which left the sky as dark as the ridges that lined it. As he pulled away, the lights from his late-model Kia swept across his childhood hollow and his parents’ trailer, which stood just up the road from the barn. He turned onto West Virginia Route 65. Crossing Mingo County, he passed the Delbarton Mine, where he had worked on and off for 14 years before his back gave out. Though Johnsie was built like a linebacker, falling once from a coal truck and twice from end loaders had taken a toll. At 36, his disks were a mess, and sciatica sometimes shot pain to his knees.

Still, he managed to lift the buckets that held his plants; friends sometimes helped. In another part of the barn, they had set up a man cave with a big-screen TV and girlie posters. When they weren’t transplanting and trimming, they played video games and discussed their passion for cultivating pot. None of them had studied marijuana like Johnsie, but they all loved growing, seeing it not just as a hobby or a way to make a buck but as an act of compassion.

“Mostly the people that bought were older men and women, Vietnam veterans and people that’s been hurt,” Johnsie told me. “I mean, to hear them say, ‘You know, ever since I started smoking your pot, I ain’t touched a pain pill … ” He trailed off, shaking his head, but it was clear what he meant. In a state with one of the nation’s highest rates of overdose deaths, most of them opioid-related, it felt good to give people an alternative, one that even the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said this year has never caused an overdose fatality.

Minutes after leaving the barn, Johnsie parked in the light of his own trailer, a newly remodeled 14-by-60 that he shared with his wife, Faye, and 14-year-old daughter Bethany. His phone rang. It was a neighbor from Rutherford Branch Road, where the barn stood. Cops were there, asking about him… | READ ON

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WV DHHR announces medical cannabis board members | Charleston Gazette-Mail | 06 | 29 | 17
Would legalizing marjuana help curb the opioid epidemic? | Reuters | 03 | 27 | 17





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