CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is scheduled to meet in Charleston in two weeks to approve recommendations that will be presented to the state Legislature.
Board members will meet at the University of Charleston Ballroom on Feb. 20 at 2 p.m.
The board will recommend rules that are needed to implement the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act. The law was signed last year by Governor Jim Justice.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health, oversees the board. He told MetroNews following its Tuesday board meeting some recommendations to the law could include adding medical conditions that can be treated with cannabis, adding responsibilities for physicians, adding different types of products that can be used, changing permit limitations, to name a few.
Gupta said the board’s top priority is to move in a timely manner.
“The most important thing is to make sure there are no delays in order to get the patient cards and the program stood up on the ground and running by July 2019,” he said.
Public input has played a large role in identifying the recommendations, Gupta said. There is a public comment period at every board meeting.
“The board is trying to be very proactive because they’re the ones who are listening to the pubic, to the West Virginians. They have gone around the state. They have listened to a lot of passionate West Virginians, so the board understands the needs out there,” Gupta said.
Gupta officially introduced Jason Frame Tuesday as the new director of the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis. The office was recently created under the DHHR.
“Jason’s job is to make sure that the program implementation happens, that the regulatory framework is in place, the office is functioning, that the growers, producers and dispensers, as well as processors, are getting what they need,” Gupta said.
Frame has only been on the job for a few days, but he said he’s ready to hit the ground running. Frame previously worked for the DHHR’s Office of Environmental Health Services for the last five years.
“I think I have a lot of good experience at running a complex program within the DHHR framework and I think that would translate well into the Medical Cannabis program,” Frame said.
Board members heard from a legislative panel at Tuesday’s meeting at UC. The panel included Senator Ron Stollings (D-Boone, 07) and Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha, 37), who have greatly supported the bill. Stollings told the board medical marijuana is just another way to help lower overdose deaths in West Virginia.
Much of the concern about the new law comes from a lack of research. Board members said doctors need to be trained to know what their roles are when it comes to prescribing medication.
Under the current law, medical marijuana will be available as pills; oils; for vaporization; 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 board plans to establish locations for dispensaries, growers, processors and laboratories in the state.
West Virginia was the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation.