West Virginia’s medical cannabis program on track
CHARLESTON — After years of setting up regulations, fixing a banking problem, selecting companies to handle all aspects of creating and selling products, West Virginia’s medical cannabis program could be ready for patients by the fall.
According to the Office of Medical Cannabis within the Department of Health and Human Resources, nearly 1,400 applications have been received from its patient registration system as of Monday for a medical cannabis patient card.
Once a patient is certified to use medical cannabis by a physician approved by DHHR, patients can go to medcanwv.org to sign up for the medical cannabis card. Serious medical conditions include cancer, immunodeficiencies, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, sickle cell anemia, terminal illnesses, and severe chronic and intractable pain.
“There are many West Virginians who are experiencing chronic pain due to a serious medical condition,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state health officer and commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health. “Registering for a medical cannabis card through the web portal will ensure these patients will have access to medical cannabis at the time products are available, which is anticipated by fall 2021.”
In March, DHHR announced the selection of Analabs Inc. as the state’s testing laboratory for medical cannabis products. The Office of Medical Cannabis already has permits for 10 growers, 10 processors and 100 dispensaries across the state that will carry medical cannabis products.
According to DHHR records, 32 companies with locations in 23 counties were selected for dispensaries in January. The Office of Medical Cannabis announced the selection of 10 growers in October 2020 and 10 processors in November 2020.
The medical cannabis program was capped by the West Virginia Legislature at 10 grower permits, 10 processor permits and up to 100 dispensaries. While a person or a business can hold permits for all three permitting processes, no person or business can have more than 10 dispensary permits.
Signed into law in 2017, the Medical Cannabis Act legalizes marijuana for medical use. The state ran into an early hiccup in 2019 over how to handle fees, penalties, and taxes from the medical cannabis program, a product that remains a schedule I drug under federal law. Banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation are prohibited from accepting money generated from illegal drug activity. A bill allowing alternative banking sources, such as credit unions, was passed to fix the issue.
The Legislature also has made several attempts to make fixes and tweaks to the Medical Cannabis Act to allow for more local growers, processors, and dispensaries. A bill allowing for the use of dry leaf for vaporization was passed a few years ago but bills to allow for smoking and edible cannabis have never made it past the finish line.
According to DHHR spokesperson Andrea Lannom, the only delay in the medical cannabis program is Mother Nature: growing the product and processing it into legal products for the dispensaries. Once products are available, patients will be able use their cards and buy products.
“The timing is based on the progress that the growers and processors are making to continue to build out the industry,” Lannom said. “We anticipate that products will be available to consumers in the fall, but that can change if delays with these two groups are experienced.”
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