West Virginia had legalized medical marijuana in its jurisdiction through Senate Bill 386 in 2017. Three years after this legalization, the state has managed to attain permits for its medical marijuana dispensary sites. This is a fresh step towards implementing the proposals of the bill, which are already running behind schedule.
The Monongalia County Board of Health approved 20 out of the 21 permits during a special session held this week. The applications were received last December by the county, but their progress was slowed down substantially by the pandemic. Lee Smith, Monongalia County Health Officer has dismissed some of the criticisms. He relates the delays to budget cuts and being on the frontline with COVID-19.
West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis has sent more medical cannabis applications to the country in June. Notwithstanding the pressure, Smith Lee has established that these applications “were not going to get a rubber stamp as they did in many other counties”.
The approved medical marijuana dispensary sites are now eligible for further evaluation and scoring at a state level. The only site that was rejected in this round of approvals was found to be 921 feet away from a day care center. This is not in sync with a mandatory state law that requires businesses to be at least 1000 feet away from daycares or schools.
Legalization of Medical Marijuana through Senate Bill 386
Medical marijuana advocates in West Virginia have fought a long battle to get it legalized in their state. Between the years 2010 and 2015, a number of bills were introduced in the region only to be rejected one after the other by legislative authorities.
Finally, in 2017, Senate Bill 386 got medical marijuana the legal standing it deserved within the state. It legalized medical marijuana for patients with qualifying medical conditions like seizures, aids, epilepsy, PTSD, cancer and other serious illnesses.
Under the restrictions imposed by the bill, qualifying patients are confined to possess the plant in pre-determined formulations. Consumption of marijuana is allowed in the form of infused pills, topicals or dermal patches. In addition, any other form that is ‘medically appropriate’ for use is considered legal for use through vaporization or nebulization.
Patients under the age of 18 can get medical marijuana via a caregiver approved by the Bureau. Others above this age are eligible to receive an MMJ card.
Other limitations defined by the act include a patient limit on caregivers. Caregivers are allowed to extend services to just five patients at any given time. In addition to this, patients cannot appoint more than two caregivers for their help.
Furthermore, the law strictly prohibits home cultivation of medical marijuana. Only state licensed dispensaries are allowed the retail of medicinal commodities to registered patients.
Since there are no operational medical marijuana dispensary sites to date, West Virginia is still technically in its struggling period.
Delay in Implementation of the Bill
Despite of expecting the bill to get into effect by July of 2019, not much progress has been made to date. West Virginia still awaits the inauguration of its first batch of medical marijuana dispensaries.
There are a number of reasons for this delay.
Among the many contributors that led to a delay in its proper implementation were the continual resistance by opponents and few inadequacies in the originally proposed bill itself. Secondly, banks were skeptical about lending funds to the industry due to fearing a violation of federal drug and banking laws.
More recently, the absence of a chalked-out process to accept and disperse location permits to relevant departments slowed down approvals immensely.
The issues still don’t seem to end anytime soon as authorities haven’t arrived at an acceptable fee for rolling out the program. Therefore it might take while to receive a medical marijuana card in West Virginia.