MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A survey completed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources shows high interest of medical cannabis among both patients and physicians in the Mountain State.

Loretta Haddy, state epidemiologist of DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, presented the results of this survey a meeting of the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board at WVU’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy on Thursday.

Over 6,000 individuals participated in the survey, including patients with qualifying medical conditions, as well as family members and caregivers of those with serious medical conditions.

“What we are seeing is there’s a tremendous amount of interest, not just from a particular area of the state but all across the state. Every county participated in the survey,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health and state health officer. “There seems to be extraordinary interest amongst providers, amongst physicians themselves. We saw data that over 80 percent of the physicians demonstrated interest, of those who were surveyed.”

While Gupta said the Bureau for Public Health is very excited about the interest, it’s a long process and big program to develop.

“We certainly are doing everything in our power to make sure that it happens, stays on track and on time,” he said. “It’s an interesting process of setting this program up because on one hand we are working to do this, and on the other hand we’re trying to find funding to do it.”

As the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board awaits decisions from the state legislature, Gupta said that slows the process even further.

“There’s a level of uncertainty, but every day we are working on this. Not a single day goes by since the passage of the bill that we have not worked on moving this program forward,” he said. “I can tell you right now, it seems to be on track. There’s a lot of work that is going on in the background, and there’s a lot of committed people that are trying to make this progarm a success.”

Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Folmer also spoke during the meeting, detailing the advisory board on his state’s accomplishments with medical cannabis.

During public comment, visitors from Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Colorado and elsewhere voiced support for medical cannabis in West Virginia to improve quality of life for those with serious medical conditions.

“This is the level of interest and the depth of the interest that is there in this process, so it’s very important for us to make sure that we stay on track and we do all of that work, both from regulatory work and the intent of helping people,” Gupta said.

The board’s next meeting will be Feb. 6 in Charleston, giving the board the opportunity to see what comes of the legislative session.

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