Legislature passes two bills intended to get medical cannabis program functioning in 2019; governor signs one, vetoes the other
Last update: April 1, 2019
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 on March 29, and it passed the House on April 4 in a 76-24 vote.
Unfortunately, the rollout of the program has been delayed because of concerns about who will provide banking services to the state’s medical cannabis program and to medical cannabis businesses. Southern District U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart has exacerbated the problem by threatening to prosecute businesses that enter the medical cannabis space.
In an effort to address these issues, in 2019, the legislature passed HB 2538, a bill that will allow credit unions to bid for the state’s account and will seek to protect state employees from potential prosecution. Gov. Justice signed this bill into law.
The legislature also passed HB 2079, a bill that will allow vertical integration of dispensaries and increase the number of dispensaries to 100. Gov. Justice vetoed this bill. Senate President Mitch Carmichael said the bill will be taken up again and dealt with “very quickly” during an upcoming special session.
Unfortunately, the law continues to prohibit patients from obtaining cannabis in its natural, flower form. The 2019 legislative session ended in March. A summary of the law, as amended in 2019, is here.
An advisory board tasked with making policy recommendations began holding meetings in August 2017. It has already recommended allowing whole-plant cannabis. More information about the advisory board and the medical cannabis program can be found at the website for the Office of Medical Cannabis.
Think tank reports that legalization would boost West Virginia’s economy, provide safer alternative to opioids
In August 2016, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy published an in-depth report examining the potential economic and budgetary impacts of legalizing marijuana in the state. They concluded that West Virginia could raise approximately $45 million in taxes and save $17 million currently spent on enforcement. The report also noted that “marijuana may potentially have a positive impact on West Virginia’s opioid-based painkiller and heroin epidemic by offering another, less-addictive alternative to individuals who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions.”
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in West Virginia, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service. And please urge your West Virginia lawmakers to support cannabis policy reforms during the 2019 session!