19 April 2017 the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, S.B. 386, was signed by Gov. Jim Justice. Beginning no sooner than July 2019, qualifying patients whose doctors have issued them a written certification for medical cannabis will be allowed to register with the health department to use medical cannabis and to buy it from regulated dispensaries.
The Bureau for Public Health is allowed to issue permits initially for no more than 10 growers (with up to two locations each), up to 10 processors and no more than 30 dispensary permits. The Bureau may not issue more than one individual grower or processor permit to one person. A grower or a processor may not be a dispensary. It will also regulate testing laboratories. Medical cannabis organizations will be required to use seed-to-sale tracking of cannabis and to meet rules regarding delivery, transportation, record-keeping, security, and surveillance.
Counties may ban medical cannabis businesses entirely or may limit their locations within the county.
Lawmakers gave the DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health oversight and tasked the bureau with creating an online source of public information. The section of the website, found at www.dhhr.wv.gov/bph/Pages/Medical-Cannabis-Program.aspx, links to frequently asked questions for patients and caregivers, growers and processors, potential dispensary owners and physicians.
The website states that the Bureau for Public Health is in the early stages of the development of the program.
Qualified Medical Conditions
Patients may qualify for medical cannabis if they have a terminal illness or if they suffer from cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, epilepsy, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, sickle cell anemia, or “severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or has proved ineffective as determined as part of continuing care.”
To certify patients, physicians must register with the health bureau, complete a four-hour course, and report to the bureau if a patient no longer needs access to medical cannabis or if the patient dies. The doctor must have treated the patient for at least six months at the time of the certification, and the patient must be under the doctor’s continuing care for the qualifying condition. The doctor must certify the patient is “likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the use of medical cannabis, and other treatments, including treatments involving opioids, have proven ineffective or otherwise are contraindicated.” Physicians may specify the form of cannabis their patients must use.
The only types of medical cannabis allowed initially are pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquid, and non-whole plant forms for administration through vaporization. Dispensaries cannot sell edibles, but medical cannabis products could be mixed into food or drinks by patients themselves. Vaporization (or oils) is allowed, but smoking is prohibited. Patients may only obtain a 30-day supply of cannabis at a time. It is not clear who will determine the definition of a 30-day supply.
Taxes and Fees
Applicants will pay $2,500 per dispensary application and $5,000 per grower or processor application. Registration fees are $10,000 for each dispensary location and $50,000 for grower and processors. A 10% tax is levied on sales from growers/processors to dispensaries. Patients are initially charged $50 for an identification card, which can be waived for financial hardship.
Farmers in West Virginia can now apply to cultivate industrial hemp for commercial purposes, making the Mountain State the latest to show an interest in growing the plant.