What comes to mind when you think of West Virginia? To me, West Virginia is a region where hard, blue-collar work is ingrained in the culture. To some, it may appear to be “stuck in time,” meaning that the state has yet to become fully modernized as it clings to a nostalgia of the past.
As of now, the state’s economy mostly relies on energy extraction, with coal and natural gas being the focal point of its economy. However, the state’s looking for other economic options because these resources will eventually run out.
Medical Marijuana Comes to West Virginia
West Virginia’s cannabis laws are still a bit complex. Just last year, the State of Virginia commissioned the Western Virginia Center on Budget and Policy to research what the negative and positives would be of legalizing medical marijuana. And to no one’s surprise, the benefits far outweighed the negatives.
The study used revenue data from other states in order to see if changing West Virginia’s cannabis laws would benefit the state economically. With this data, legislators came to the table. They had been attempting to implement medical marijuana for years, but the legislature was too divided on the topic and in 2016, they put a bipartisan bill in place.
SB 386, as it became to be known, passed through West Virginia’s legislature last March and was signed into law in April. With this victory, West Virginia became the 29th state in the Union to approve medical marijuana. It was a major relief to those suffering from debilitating diseases as it afforded medical consumers an alternative to addictive pharmaceutical drugs.
Another important aspect is that this legislation will raise an estimated $45 million dollars per year, which will be directed to infrastructure, healthcare, and schools.
With the US moving away from fossil fuels like coal and toward more eco-friendly alternatives, the medical marijuana industry in the state can provide much-needed jobs to compensate the job losses. Now, medical marijuana legislation shouldn’t be looked at as a win for marijuana overall, since the state implemented strict laws concerning medical marijuana.
In this blog, Leafbuyer will break down the newly implemented laws in order for West Virginians and tourists to make sure they don’t get into any trouble.
Marijuana Permitted for Consumption
Okay, so this tidbit is very important: marijuana leaves will not be sold to medical cardholders. Possession of marijuana leaves can result in fines and legal punishment. Instead, creams, ointments, tinctures, and other “non-leaf” products will be available to medical cardholders.
Cultivation of Marijuana Plants
As mentioned earlier, leaf plants are not permitted by SB 386. Therefore, home cultivation is against the law and may result in harsh penalties. If you make the bad decision to home grow, the law states that it’s a felony possession charge, with a max penalty of 5 years in jail, and a minimum of 1.
Furthermore, the more you grow, the more fines you receive. And, if it’s up to a possession threshold where the judge deems it to be distribution, it mirrors a cultivation charge. But, if the drugs somehow end up in the hands of a minor, it’s an automatic 2 years in jail based on federal law.
Obtaining a Cannabis Card
The qualifying conditions for West Virginia’s Medical Marijuana Program can be found here.
Medical consumers will be charged $50 for the card application. It’s also important to note that IF you don’t suffer from one of these conditions, then you have the ability to appeal the decision. Doing this requires an examination of the condition by a physician, with a note of exception sent to the state office. The State of Virginia has a method that is recommended for medical consumers trying to find an approved medical marijuana doctor:
Conduct an internet search by zip code and a list will pop up (or you can click on “maps”). Once this is done, click to read the doctor’s profile. If the doctor is licensed to prescribe medical marijuana, send an inquiry. Doctors typically require a check-up and medical history prior to allowing a consumer to obtain a medical marijuana card.
Once approved, a medical cardholder will have the right to consume cannabis in whatever form he chooses, but there are some guidelines in regards to possession. The amount permitted for a cardholder to carry depends on the prescription itself (i.e., a medical consumer is allowed to carry his 30 day supply). Anything more than this can result in legal problems. And lastly, don’t carry the prescription within 1,000 feet of a school.
Obtaining a Business License to Sell Marijuana
If you’re interested in opening a business, then there are a few things to understand. First of all, it costs $2,500 for every dispensary permit and $10,000 for the registration fee. Next steps involve some of the most nitty-gritty aspects of the plan itself: the state requires prospective sellers to create a corporate business plan that explains the business model and overhead itself.
Next, locations need to be determined. It’s crucial to remember that the state is still very strict when it comes to where marijuana dispensaries can be built. West Virginia doesn’t permit a medical marijuana business owner to open a store near a school or other restricted locations (restricted locations are subject to change, so remember to check the state’s website often.)
Once those tasks are complete, a business owner needs all the necessary permits and has to provide an infrastructure plan that fits the state’s building requirements. Incidentally, if a person wants to grow pot, they will need to cough up $5,000 for processing and $50,000 for the permit.
Obtaining a Business License to Grow Marijuana
Growers are required to submit a lot more paperwork and are monitored in a more strict fashion. With the fear of distribution comes more attention on growers. The bill made it clear that the number of plants and total equipment needs to be properly disclosed. And, a potential grower has to know about the THC/CBD extraction process as the leaves themselves can’t be sold as-is. Crossing state lines is also a federal crime and can result in imprisonment. So make sure to have your GPS on when driving so you don’t get lost.
As you can see, West Virginia has come a long way from its more conservative roots. After a compelling study, lawmakers made the right decision when moving forward to legalize medical marijuana.
The movement itself took a few years as the state has was deeply divided along party lines over the issue, but with the research came newfound hope for medical consumers in the state. And while not perfect, this is the first step in West Virginia possibly moving toward complete legalization.