Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
News and Sentinel, Parkersburg, West Virginia, on helping the homeless:
About 3,000 people will not go to bed in their own homes tonight in West Virginia, because they don't have homes. Decades of efforts by state and federal governments have failed to eliminate the problem of homelessness.
In truth, the homeless problem cannot be completely eliminated. Of those 3,000 homeless residents, some are men and women who for one reason or another choose to be homeless.
But many, including too many children, wish they had warm homes in which to spend these cold evenings.
The reasons they do not are many and varied - and obviously, not well understood.
Appropriately enough, last week - on the day before Thanksgiving - W.Va. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin reinvigorated a state program to help the homeless. Established in 2007, it had been inactive for about two years.
Tomblin did something wise in ordering the program to be revived. He transferred it to the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities.
We are now entering the time of the year when it is more than just uncomfortable to be forced to spend the night outside - it is dangerous. This is a good season for West Virginia residents to pray the BHHF can find realistic ways to fight homelessness in our state.
The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on state, counties should work to remove confusion over warrants:
Disjointed systems tracking outstanding arrest warrants in West Virginia have led to frustration among some police agencies, who say they too often end up arresting the same person twice on the same warrant.
The issue was brought to light last month during a meeting of the Cabell County 911 Advisory Board, which includes representatives from various police and emergency agencies operating in the county.
The problem stems from various factors, from an older local computer database that doesn't always accurately reflect if an arrest warrant has been executed, to a newer statewide automated system that doesn't reflect older warrants or warrants issued from all levels of court.
Considering all that, it's no surprise that some police say they don't find the information they are getting reliable. Capt. Mike Albers of the Huntington Police Department told those at the meeting he was nearly at the point of telling his officers to stop making arrests based on warrants. A primary concern is that arresting the same individual twice on the same warrant could expose the city of Huntington to legal problems.
It's clear that an answer is needed.
An automated database of warrants managed by the state Supreme Court of Appeals opened statewide in January. It houses magistrate court warrants, both misdemeanor and felony, from every West Virginia county dating back to January 2012. The problem with it is that it lacks older records and does not include warrants from the state's circuit courts.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court indicates her office is willing to explore ways to merge magistrate court warrants from previous years, but there seems to be no answers at this point about how to incorporate warrants from circuit courts any time soon.
For the sake of efficient law enforcement and the fair administration of justice, it would behoove officials both at the county and state levels to work toward solutions soon. The current dual systems have demonstrated too many gaps and inaccuracies. Merging the two systems and ensuring up-to-date accuracy of the warrant records would be the logical top two goals.
Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on medical marijuana is OK:
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 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.