CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new poll released on Wednesday says that a majority of West Virginia voters support legalizing medical marijuana.Last week, Public Policy Polling completed a survey that found the state's voters favored reform legislation by a 13 percent margin: 53 percent to 40 percent.Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, said on Wednesday afternoon, "From what you saw in the poll, we are ready to have this issue talked about and taken seriously."The Marijuana Policy Project released the survey results on its website.Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, plans to introduce a bill in the Legislature that would allow patients who are seriously ill to use marijuana if their physicians recommend it. If passed, those medical patients would not be subject to arrest.The PPP survey, which included 1,232 voters, also found more and more West Virginians believe marijuana is far safer than prescription painkillers, which have become an epidemic in the state.The poll reported that 63 percent of state voters believe marijuana is a safer treatment for debilitating pain than OxyContin. A plurality of the voters said they felt marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.Dr. Paul Clancy, an emergency physician based in Spencer, said, "Many West Virginians could potentially benefit from the use of medical marijuana where other drugs have failed."No patient battling a serious medical condition should have to risk possible arrest and imprisonment for using a medicine most West Virginians recognize as being safer than OxyContin," Clancy said.Simon, born in West Virginia and a graduate of West Virginia University, said, "Our state is ready for a serious conversation about this compassionate legislation, and we hope it receives a fair hearing."A majority of voters agree that it's time to stop criminalizing people who use marijuana responsibly to treat their conditions and alleviate their pain."The new PPP poll also found a plurality of West Virginia voters support legislation to remove criminal penalties, and possible jail time, for marijuana possession by all adults, replacing those penalties with a minor infraction and fine, like a parking ticket.The full results of the PPP survey, held between Jan. 7 and Jan 9, are available at: http://tinyurl.com/aplpspd.The Marijuana Policy Project is the nation's largest marijuana policy reform group. It has been responsible for most of the policy reforms passed by state legislatures since 2000.Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.