West Virginia lags behind other states on cannabis policy
West Virginia remains one of the 19 states that have yet to even decriminalize cannabis possession. Meanwhile, its neighboring state Maryland will begin legal sales for adult consumers on July 1, 2023.
Under current law in West Virginia, a first offense for possession of any amount of cannabis carries a mandatory minimum of 90 days’ imprisonment (with a conditional discharge for up to 15 grams with probation).
These laws are some of the harshest in the nation, and their effect on West Virginians — disproportionately West Virginians of color — is evident. According to the ACLU, West Virginia ranks fourth in the nation for the highest racial disparity in arrests for cannabis possession, with Black people being 7.3times more likely to be arrested than white people.
West Virginia’s medical cannabis program continues to grow
On November 12, 2021, West Virginia’s first medical cannabis dispensary opened its doors in Morgantown. Since then, over 40 dispensaries have opened across the state and 21,000 residents have been approved for medical cannabis cards.
A timeline of West Virginia's medical cannabis law
On April 19, 2017, Gov. Jim Justice signed West Virginia’s medical cannabis bill, SB 386, making West Virginia the 29th state to pass a medical cannabis law. The bill passed the Senate in a 28-6 vote, and it passed the House in a 76-24 vote. A summary of the law, as amended in 2019 and 2020, is here.
In an effort to address these banking issues, in 2019, the legislature passed HB 2538, a bill that allowed credit unions to bid for the state’s account and sought to protect state employees from potential prosecution. Gov. Justice signed this bill into law.
In 2019, the legislature also passed SB 1037, a bill that allowed vertical integration of dispensaries and increased the number of dispensaries to 100.
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