In a recently concluded election, it appears that residents of Berkeley County, West Virginia have voted to allow medical cannabis facilities to operate as per unofficial results, said Herald Mail Media. If declared official, this will allow the operation of organizations such as dispensaries, growers, and processors with state licenses.
The primary election was held on June 9 with 66 precincts. The marijuana matter garnered 10,051 votes. Only 5,281 voters decided against this measure. These numbers do not include absentee ballots.
While this may be progress for the cannabis industry in the county, state legislator Jason Barrett expressed his opinion that the referendum should not have been on the ballot. He also remarked that some counties were given the option not to participate in the marijuana vote.
Two municipalities, Hedgesville and Martinsburg, were “excluded” in the vote. The report did not clarify whether their local government opted out of the referendum.
There were concerns regarding the exclusion of Hedgesville and Martinsburg in medical cannabis voting. Barrett said that this led to the “disenfranchisement of voters” who were excluded. He also warned that this could have legal repercussions.
While Barrett said he will not be filing a lawsuit, he also mentioned that the office of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey noted that the two municipalities should have had a say in the matter.
In fact, Morrissey mentioned in an interview that the Attorney General office would be evaluating the issue, particularly Berkeley County’s actions. The office will also be meeting with other officials regarding what happened.
In discussing the exclusion of some voters, he said, “It is my understanding that everyone in the county should be afforded the ability to vote in that election.
Regarding concerns of disenfranchisement, Berkeley County Council Attorney Norwood Bentley emailed Barrett saying that West Virginia’s medical marijuana laws allow countries and its cities to handle the matter distinctively. He said, “Cities may control (medical cannabis organizations) through zoning, which is what Martinsburg preferred when consulted.” This means that “counties have no control mechanism other than by prohibition (of the organizations) or acceptance of the default position.”
As per the Bentley, the council was advised that the default position stated on West Virginia’s state laws is that these facilities are permitted in counties, unless voting indicates the opposite. The overwhelming voter response on the referendum made it clear that even if the municipalities were included in the vote, the result would be the same and would lead to the operations of medical marijuana facilities.
Nevertheless, Barrett insists that the two municipalities should have had a say on the marijuana issue.
Meanwhile, Donnie Plotner, chief deputy clerk of elections in the county, noted that voter turn out was actually better in some precincts than expected because of the pandemic. In fact, a huge chunk of absentee ballots was returned. Out of 13,000 absentee ballots, 9,695 were returned.
The report did not specify how many of these returned ballots voted for the marijuana referendum.