Medical cannabis in West Virginia is slow growing process

In April 2017, West Virginia became the 29th state to legalize medical marijuana.
Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 8:45 PM EST
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The first medical cannabis dispensary opened in the Mountain State on Friday in Morgantown. Another is planned to open Monday in Weston.

Yet West Virginia is one of the slowest states to get their medical cannabis program up and running since passing legislation more than four years ago.

In April 2017, West Virginia became the 29th state to legalize medical marijuana but the process has been slow growing ever since.

“We want to make a difference and we believe we can make a positive difference,” said Bill Shapiro, Vice President of supply chain and facilities for TerraLeaf. “We want to help people and that’s our mission.”

The TerraLeaf dispensary is set to open in Huntington in early December, that is, if owner Chris Visco, can get her hands on local product. She says local growers aren’t selling to other dispensaries, since they carry several permits of their own.

“They over-licensed the state,” she said. Visco owns several dispensaries in Pennsylvania and has been frustrated with the amount of time, money and energy she’s invested in West Virginia, but isn’t seeing a lot of help and support from the state to make this new program successful. She tells WSAZ she remains hopeful, but is most concerned about patients awaiting to buy medicinal cannabis.

“They’ve waited four years and now there is product but it won’t be available to them,” she said.

The Office of Medical Cannabis says to date they have received 4,346 patient applications and 3,206 have been approved. It takes approximately 30 to 90 days for applications to be reviewed.

The state awarded 10 grower permits, 10 processor permits and 100 permits to dispensaries. Currently, only three growers are operational. OMC says anyone failing to make steady progress towards operational status may be subject to penalties up and including revocation of permit.

The plants take several months to mature so it will take time once seeds are in the ground before growers are able to harvest their crop and turn the plants into products.

Shapiro says he’s eager to get their office up and running and begin helping others.

“We are in the forefront,” he said. “We believe in this. We are advocates, we want everybody to feel better. We want to cure the world.”

We requested an interview with the Office of Medical Cannabis Director, Jason Frame, but the interview was cancelled and not rescheduled.

WSAZ asked OMC about the number of permits issued in comparison to other states. Ohio, which has 11 times the number of residents, issued only 58 dispensary permits and based the approved permits based on the amount of patients per district. The program in Ohio is even looking to expand and add another 70 dispensaries in the coming months. They responded by saying:

“OMC considered many factors during the issuance of dispensary permits. One factor that weighed heavily and is always a primary concern is patient access to dispensaries. Due to the challenging geographic nature and lack of public transportation within WV, a wide distribution of dispensaries is favorable. Under the method ultimately used for dispensary permit issuance in almost all cases patients would have to travel at a maximum to the neighboring county to access a dispensary.”

In order to apply and be eligible for the program, patients must be diagnosed with one of sixteen serious medical conditions:

  • Cancer
  • Position status for human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity
  • Epilepsy
  • Neuropathies
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Intractable seizures
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain
  • Terminal illness that is defined as a medical prognosis of life expectancy of approximately one year or less if the illness runs its normal course

To find a list of dispensary permit holders, click here.

Cannabis can be purchased in a pill; oil; topical forms including gels, creams or ointments; a form medically appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization, dry leaf or plant form; tincture; liquid; or dermal patch.

To contact the office:

The next virtual Office of Medical Cannabis Advisory Board meeting will be December 16th at 12:00 p.m.

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