Discussions continue about allowing cannabis patients to grow plants

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board will continue discussions about allowing West Virginians eligible to use medical marijuana to grow plants.

Board members met last week to continue discussions as well as possible concerns related to access to dispensaries and cost.

Gov. Jim Justice signed the state medical marijuana law in April 2017, which allows patients to use medical cannabis plants and products for medical treatment.

Rusty Williams, a patient advocate for the board, has supported allowing people to grow plants.

“Basically, when I made the recommendation, I just think that — especially in a state like West Virginia, we’re one of the most economically depressed states in the country — even when our dispensary system is up and running, we’re going to have folks priced right out of their medicine or their insurance doesn’t cover this.”

“I think homegrow is a crucial part of that,” Williams added.

Board member Jesse Forbes said patients could grow a limited number of plants if the state Legislature approves such policy.

“From our perspective, we’re trying to decide is this something that would help make it more affordable for the folks that are not going to have any kind of insurance cover these kinds of products or anything like that, and may not be actively working if suffering from cancer or whatever it might be,” he said.

Board members heard from Dr. Libby Stuyt, an addiction psychiatrist from Colorado. She told board members she has seen “more and more” problems since recreational marijuana became legalized in 2014. Stuyt mentioned concerns with cannabis with high-potency THC, cannabis’ main intoxicating chemical.

“I’ve determined it’s one of the most dangerous drugs we have,” she said.

“Somebody could have their 12 plants in the house, but they really have 120 plants in the house. And when the police are called because their neighbors complain about the smell or the traffic coming around the house, they can’t really investigate without a warrant because it all smells the same.”

Stuyt added state officials should treat medical cannabis like medicine to prevent possible misuse.

“I really do respect the idea that when you have homegrows, you have no idea what it is they’re producing in terms of safety and just the different things,” she said.

The state Office of Medical Cannabis will hold a public sign-up event for medical cannabis patients on Wednesday at the West Virginia University School of Public Health facility located at Morgantown’s Mountaineer Mall. Certified patients must bring a completed patient certification form, unexpired identification card, proof of West Virginia residency, and a $50 patient identification card application fee.

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