If you haven’t heard the news yet, Governor Jim Justice signed SB 386 into law on April 19, making West Virginia the 29th state in the country to provide acutely ill patients access to legalized medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we were excited to see another state provide the compassion and care that so many American desperately need and deserve.
While much of West Virginia’s medical marijuana legalization efforts unfolded over just the last couple of months, legislative approval can likely be attributed to an in-depth report published last August.
This detailed report, from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, focused on the economic and budgetary effects that legalization would have on the state. Their findings included a ballpark figure of $45 million in potential tax revenue (at a rate of 25%) and another $17 million in savings on marijuana-related law enforcement. It also highlighted the positive impact that legalization would have on curbing the state’s opioid-based painkiller epidemic by providing an effective, “less addictive” option.
Fast forward to March of this year when Senator Richard Ojeda and 11 co-sponsors introduced SB 386, which would legalize medical marijuana. By the end of the month, the “West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act” was approved by the Senate with an overwhelmingly positive vote of 28-6 and sent to the House. While House Speaker Tim Armstead is known for being staunchly against even considering any medical marijuana bills, SB 386 passed in the House with a 76-24 vote on third reading and after revisions.
The Basics of SB 386, What’s Legal and What’s Not
While the original Senate bill suggested the creation of a 16-member Medical Cannabis Commission to administer the program, the passed version charges the Bureau of Public Health with regulating medical marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries. A diverse advisory board will also be established to provide the bureau with recommendations as it implements the new program.
The Senate bill that was passed also specifies a list of qualifying medical conditions, including terminal illnesses, cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s, and more:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal cord damage
- Epilepsy / intractable seizures
- Various types of neuropathy
- Huntington’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Sickle cell anemia
Of course, patients must first be certified by a registered physician who has been treating them for their qualifying condition for at least 6 months and must remain in their doctor’s care for this condition. If a physician is caught certifying a non-qualifying patient, they can face felony charges.
One point of contention, and we hope to see this amended at some point, is that the law eliminates the sale or use of marijuana in flower or leaf form. It also does not allow home growing. What is allowed are pills, oils, gels, tinctures, creams and ointments, as well as vaporization (non-whole plant). Dispensaries are also not allowed to sell edibles, but patients can mix legal forms into their own food and drinks.
The newly passed law also allows patients to only possess a 30-day supply of medical marijuana, though there is no clear way to define such a supply as of yet. However, patients or caregivers possessing more than this amount of cannabis will face up to six months in jail. We’ll see how this plays out.
If You’re Looking to Set Up Shop in West Virginia
While the Bureau of Health is yet to develop the rules or process applications and business licenses, taxes and fees have already been established:
- Grower/Processor Application – $5,000
- Grower/Processor Registration (per location) – $50,000
- Dispensary Application – $2,500
- Dispensary Registration (per location) – $10,000
- Taxes are 10% on sales from growers/processors to dispensaries
Just 10 permits for growers (up to two locations) will be issued, along with 10 processor permits and 30 dispensary permits. Businesses will be required to use seed-to-sale tracking and meet rules the bureau implements for delivery, transportation, recordkeeping, security, and surveillance.
While patient cards aren’t expected to be issued until July of 2019, Medicine Man Technologies is very encouraged by this development in West Virginia. If you’re looking to apply for a business permit in the state, please feel free to contact us. We’ve been working closely with individuals and businesses across the country to plan, launch and operate successful, fully-compliant cannabis enterprises. Let us put our consulting experience to work for you!