West Virginia House Committee Approves Some Medical Marijuana Board Requests

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The House of Delegates will review this week several structural changes to the state’s medical marijuana program that begins next summer, at the request of the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.

The House Judiciary Committee fast-tracked House Bill 4345 to the chamber floor Friday and waived its second reference to the Finance Committee.

While the legislation would adopt several recommended changes, it does not allow for the administration of any dry leaf or plant form of marijuana for vaporization, as the board requested Tuesday.

Under current law, the Bureau of Public Health can only issue permits to 10 marijuana growers, 10 processors and 30 dispensaries in the state, with no more than five dispensaries in one region.

The bill, however, would hike those caps, allowing the BPH to issue permits to 50 growers, 50 processors and 165 dispensaries with no regional requirements.

Additionally, it would allow businesses to function as any combination of growers, processors and dispensaries. Currently, the statute forbids growers or processors from dispensing medical marijuana.

Delegate Riley Moore, R-Jefferson, the bill’s lead sponsor, said allowing more businesses to act as dispensaries as well as growers and processors will allow for more vertical integration in the market, giving companies control of their own supply chain.

Though the medical marijuana program does not start until July 2019, the bill would also give the BPH latitude to implement a process to pre-register patients with serious medical conditions.

The bill also changes certification provisions, stating a medical practitioner must determine a patient has no past or current medical condition that would serve as a contraindication for the use of cannabis, and must determine the patient is experiencing “serious pathophysiological discomfort, disability or dysfunction that may be attributable to a serious medical condition and may possibly benefit from cannabis treatment.”

These new provisions come on top of those already in code.

The legislation rolled in several, though not all, requests of the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board from its Wednesday meeting.

Among other changes, the board recommended the Legislature remove the limitations on permit issuance for growers, processors and dispensaries entirely; lift the restrictions among serving as any combination of the three; allow pre-registration for certain patients, and others.

Noticeably, however, the board recommended the Legislature “include dry leaf or plant form of medical cannabis medically appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization.”

Gov. Jim Justice signed the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act into law in April 2017. That law will allow doctors to certify patients suffering from select conditions to obtain several forms of medicinal marijuana, though not its dry leaf version.

For more information on the program, visit the Department of Health and Human Resource’s webpage on the program at https://www.medcanwv.org/.