People with range of backgrounds make up Medical Cannabis Advisory Board

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Initial meeting dates were in the process of being scheduled Friday for the newly-formed West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board a day after appointees to that Board, overseeing the legalization of medical marijuana in the Mountain State, were named.

Dr. Rahul Gupta

The Medical Cannabis Act officially takes effect on July 5 with a projected full launch date of July 1, 2019.

“There’s a lot of work that has to happen,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health and chair of West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board.

Rules will have to be developed to fully implement the Act.

“In fact, the process in real time is reversed, if you think about it,” Gupta said.  “We’ve got to make sure that there are growers and processors, there are dispensaries, there are physicians available in order for that process to start July 1, 2019.”

In addition to Gupta, the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board, operating under the Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health, will include the following people:

– Dr. Arvinder Bir, Huntington
– Col. Jan Cahill, State Police superintendent, South Charleston
– Michael J. Deegan, social worker, Cross Lanes
– Michelle R. Easton, PharmD, Charleston
– Dr. James Felsen, Great Cacapon
– W. Jesse Forbes, a Charleston lawyer
– Joseph Hatton, horticulturalist and deputy commissioner of West Virginia Department of Agriculture, Charleston
– Kimberly Knuckles, pharmacist, Beaver
– Dr. Rudy Malayil, Huntington
– Keith Randolph, Boone County prosecuting attorney
– Dr. Joseph Selby, Morgantown
– Russell A. Williams, patient advocate, Nitro

Once fully implemented, the Medical Cannabis Act will make medical marijuana a legal option for people with the following medical conditions:

Cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, sickle cell anemia, severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional treatments have not worked and terminal illness with a projected life expectancy of one year or less.

Qualifying medical marijuana users would have to apply for patient ID cards from the Bureau for Public Health. The fee will be $50, though exceptions could be made for people who cannot afford that.

Along with an ID card, a certificate from a doctor, approved by the Bureau for Public Health, will also be required.

With both of those, qualifying patients and caregivers could then purchase medical marijuana from one of up to 30 dispensaries in West Virginia supplied by ten processors working with ten growers initially who will pay fees and also be licensed through the Bureau.

The 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 in the law and marijuana plant cultivation for personal, medical use is prohibited by unlicensed growers.

The work of the advisory board, in Gupta’s view, “It’s not only looking at where laws are and those around our state, but also seeing if those conditions — those 15 medical conditions defined in law — are enough. Should they be added or reduced?”

The forms of cannabis that will be available are also slated for review along with the processes of growers and dispensaries.

“It’s very important work that this advisory board has to conduct,” Gupta said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Governor Jim Justice signed the Medical Cannabis Act into law on April 19, 2017.

Medical cannabis is still illegal under federal law but it is not a prosecution priority for the U.S. Department of Justice.

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