CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Medical Cannabis Advisory Board will begin surveying patients and physicians by next week to understand where the needs are for medical marijuana distribution in West Virginia.

The surveys are meant to determine where patients are located, what types of medical conditions they have and what physicians are interested in providing medical cannabis.

The board plans to collect and present survey results by the end of the year.

Dr. Rahul Gupta, board chairman and state chief health officer, said the data will be used to establish where dispensaries will be located in the state.

“We are required to develop regions across the state where the dispensaries will go and this will help us develop those regions,” Gupta told reporters following the board’s second meeting Wednesday at the University of Charleston.

The board, overseen by the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health, is responsible for recommending rules that are needed to implement the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, signed into law by Governor Jim Justice earlier this year.

West Virginia was the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation.

Under the current law, medical marijuana will be available as pills; oils; for vaporization or nebulization; in topical forms, like gels, creams or ointments; tinctures; liquids or dermal patches. Smokable and pre-made edible forms of marijuana are not permitted.

Patients and caregivers will be issued identification cards beginning on July 1, 2019. The fee will be $50, though exceptions could be made for people who cannot afford that. Licensed physicians will then prescribe the medication.

The patient surveys are voluntary and will be available at medcanwv.org. Results will show the demand for the number of patients needing medical marijuana for pain relief.

Physician surveys will be distributed through the state Board of Osteopathic Medicine. Those results will show the number of doctors who are allowed to prescribe it.

“If we see that 80 percent of the people filling out surveys want to, for example, are interested in wanting to have the cannabis, that tells the processors, growers and dispensaries that there’s a lot of interest,” Gupta said.

The board also established subcommittees Wednesday to speed up the implementation process.

“It’s cumbersome to have the board, in a big totality sort of work through this, so it’s better to get subcommittees where people can do the work and then bring recommendations back to the board,” Gupta explained.

Three committees will look at each of the following areas:

  • Medical professionals and serious medical conditions.
  • Forms of medical cannabis and whether dry leaf or plant form should be dispensed for vaporization.
  • Affordable patient access to medical cannabis and number of growers/processors/dispensaries.

Gupta said implementation of the new law has been a challenge because no funds were allotted for it. He said they now have to find other avenues to pay for the program.

“We certainly don’t want the taxpayers to pay for it,” he said.

More than a dozen people spoke at Wednesday’s board meeting. Every meeting will include a public comment period.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14 in Morgantown.

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