The House of Delegates passed a bill Wednesday that would increase the number of growers, processors and dispensaries that can participate in West Virginia’s medical marijuana program that starts next summer.
House Bill 4345 would also allow businesses to act as any combination of growers, processors and dispensaries; allow certain patients to pre-register for the program before its July 2019 commencement; and enhance some of the requirements to qualify for medical cannabis.
The bill passed on a 76-23 vote.
Most the changes provided by the bill came at the recommendation of the state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board. However, the board’s most significant recommendation, allowing dispensaries to provide the dry leaf form of the plant, is not in the bill.
Del. Jim Butler, R-Mason, proposed an amendment that would redirect the first $5 million made from the Medical Cannabis Program Fund into the Public Employees Insurance Agency stabilization fund to keep premiums down.
That amendment failed on a 58-41 vote. Delegate Riley Moore, R-Jefferson, who sponsored the legislation, said he voted against it because those funds are needed to support the burgeoning program itself.
More specifically, the bill would increase the Bureau of Public Health’s ability to issue permits to growers, processors and dispensaries from 10, 10 and 30 — respectively — to 50, 50 and 165.
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.”
After the bill passed the House, Moore said he suspects the Senate might amend the bill to include the leaf form of marijuana, as the MCAB requested, which could make for a tighter vote once returned to the House.
Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, introduced a bill in the Senate that would do as much, and allow patients to grow their own plants. However, the bill languished in committee.