On April 19th, 2017 West Virginia legalized Medical Cannabis under Senate Bill 386.
First, here’s a quick recap of where the program stands so far for those who may still be unfamiliar:
- Under the bill, the Bureau of Health created an advisory board to develop rules and implement the program.
- 6/29/17 – members of this advisory committee were announced (http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/News/2017/Pages/Medical-Cannabis-Advisory-Board-Named–.aspx)
- 8/16/17 – they held their first meeting to further discussions about the program. As part of this meeting, they announced the release of their new website to keep the public updated – http://www.medcanwv.org/
- 10/11/17 – another meeting took place to further discussions and to announce progress of their epidemiological studies to determine where the need for medical marijuana in the state exists. Notes from this meeting are available here – they expect these studies to be completed by December 31st of this year.
If you are interested in business opportunities available in the emerging West Virginia Medical Marijuana market, there are a few pros and cons to be aware of.
- While complete vertical integration is not allowed, one entity can own both a cultivation and processor license
- Cultivators can operate two locations per permit
- 10 cultivation permits / 10 processor permits / 30 dispensary permits allows for a total of 50 license opportunities
- Chronic pain is a qualifying condition – CP accounts for an overwhelming majority of current medical recommendations in other states
- Several “catch-all” conditions qualify, allowing compassionate physicians to use their judgement for patients who could see benefit but would otherwise not qualify
- Vaporizer oil cartridges are allowed, thereby offering patients a safer alternative to smoking marijuana flower and not boxing out this delivery preference entirely
- Patients must have a relationship with their certifying physician for 6+ months, thereby eliminating the ability for marijuana doctor clinics to open and specialize in marijuana recommendations
- Extract-only products, no smokeable flower and no edibles
- The state only has 1.8MM residents
- Resident median income is 25% lower than the national median income
If I was able to speak directly to the advisory committee to make suggestions for changes that would A) give the program a better chance to succeed, and B) raise the state’s potential to attract experienced operators and ultimately help the patients of West Virginia, I would suggest they:
- Eliminate the 6 month relationship mandate between physician and patient. If the patient has a qualifying condition and the doctor believes marijuana will help them, give them access to the medicine. States that have implemented similar requirements have seen a larger percentage of would-be patients remain within the shadows of the black market because of the effort and time required to make a change.
- Allow flower for vaporization purposes. Many patients want it, and the black market proliferates with the prohibition of dried flower. Also a considerable amount of research points to benefits of the entourage effect, arguing that whole-flower cannabis has benefits that are lost in processed oil.
- Allow only 1 location per cultivation license. It will reduce regulation enforcement costs. If you want to allow 20 locations, open up 20 licenses so you can receive the licensing and application fees from all 20 licensees.
I hope the advisory committee listens to their patients and makes some much needed changes in order for this program to succeed.
Stay tuned as the program takes shape – I’ll update these opportunities and pros/cons list as things progress.
The recently released patient interest survey is available here.
The next meeting is scheduled for 12/14 and a networking event is set to take place afterward, location TBD