CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The board tasked with implementing the state’s medical marijuana law plans to pass along nearly a dozen recommendations to the state Legislature.
The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board voted Tuesday on rules for state lawmakers to consider.
Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner for the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health, oversees the board. He said he intends to deliver the recommendations to the Legislature by the end of this week.
One recommendation includes allowing patients to receive medical marijuana in “dry leaf or plant form.” This would give patients the option to smoke the drug.
Current state law only allows marijuana to be sold in 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.
The board also voted to recommend increasing the number of growers, processors and dispensaries allowed in the state. Board member Jesse Forbes said he wants lawmakers to remove limitations on the amount of licenses permitted.
“We believe that that would likely be something that would be beneficial for the patients to have better and more affordable access, so we’re recommending that the current caps be removed,” Forbes said.
In addition, the board wants to allow integration of growers, processors and dispensaries.
The idea of a pre-registration process is also being forwarded to the Legislature. The board is interested in charging medical marijuana patients a pre-registration fee to indicate who is interested in receiving treatment.
Forbes said this will give the board a better idea of what the market looks like.
“It’s one thing to put a survey out, but if you charge them $25, that’s a whole different operation. Then they’re invested in it. They’re really saying I have the condition, put me on the list, I’m going to be going to my doctor to see if I qualify for this,” he said. “I just think that gives a better indication, frankly, to the market, to the state and all of us to understand what we’re looking at.”
The board is looking into whether West Virginia should reclassify cannabis from a schedule 1 to a schedule 4 drug. The recommendation is to study that idea further.
Under current state law, doctors and pharmacists will be stationed at each dispensary in the state. The board is recommending the Legislature better define what the medical professional’s roles are at those sites. They are not allowed to treat or prescribe medication at the dispensaries.
“The question we have is if they’re not prescribing and if they’re not getting into the amounts that are being provided and the code specifically says they cannot otherwise treat patients at the dispensaries — what exactly is a doctor or pharmacist doing while they’re present on site at the dispensary?” Forbes asked.
The board plans to establish locations for dispensaries, growers, processors and laboratories in the state.
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.
West Virginia became the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation in 2017.