Is Cannabis Legal in West Virginia?
No. Under West Virginia marijuana laws, adult-use cannabis is illegal. Marijuana laws in West Virginia classify cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance. According to WV Code 60a-4-40, marijuana possession in West Virginia is a misdemeanor punishable by no fewer than 90 days incarceration for the first offense. Trafficking marijuana into West Virginia is a felony punishable by a minimum of one year imprisonment. West Virginia decriminalization efforts were rejected by voters in local elections in 2019.
Medical marijuana is legal, but patients must obtain a physician’s certification, register with the Bureau of Health, and obtain a medical cannabis ID card to purchase cannabis from an approved West Virginia dispensary. Patients may obtain medical cannabis only from approved dispensaries licensed by the Bureau of Health.
West Virginia established a medical marijuana program when now-Republican Gov. Jim Justice signed SB 386, known as the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, into law on April 19, 2017 while he was a Democrat. The bill established the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Commission, set forth rules and timelines for the establishment of a statewide medical marijuana system, and established July 1, 2019, as the date to begin certifying patients for medical cannabis use. However, a lack of program funding and other financial hurdles has indefinitely postponed the program. A Department of Health and Human Resources spokesperson estimated that West Virginians may need to wait two or three more years before medical marijuana is available.
New legislation signed into effect in 2019 amended some of the uncertainties and addressed financial difficulties in establishing a regulated medical marijuana system. SB 1037 clarified terminology around physicians providing written certifications to patients with qualifying conditions; redefined requirements for dispensary, processor, and grower permits; defined tax schedules; and provided for protections for physicians and patients.
In May 2019, HB 2538 allowed banking institutions to bid to become a third-party vendor to handle all banking services related to the medical marijuana program. As of August 2019, no banking vendors have met the West Virginia Treasurer’s requirements.
Currently, the Bureau of Health is authorized to adopt emergency rules to draft and enforce medical cannabis regulations. These emergency rules must be published no later than six months after the May 20, 2019, signing of SB 1037, and the rules expire on July 1, 2021.
The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health is responsible for developing regulatory processes, inspecting businesses, processing applications and issuing patients ID cards.
to Be to Consume?
Patients can purchase only from dispensaries licensed by the Bureau of Health.
Patients and caregivers may purchase and possess no more than a 30-day supply at any given time, per the requirements specified on a physician’s certification.
Currently, no regulations surround medical cannabis delivery services. Local governments may determine to ban or limit medical cannabis businesses within a specific jurisdiction.
Cannabis consumption is prohibited in any public place, inside a mother vehicle, or in any rented property that specifically prohibits cannabis consumption onsite. It is illegal to perform any task under the influence of cannabis in which doing so would constitute negligence, such as the operation of any motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft.
Patients may consume medical cannabis as pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquid, and non-whole-plant forms through vaporization. Smoking cannabis flower is prohibited. Edibles are not permissible for sale, but patients can make their edibles at home.
Patients and caregivers may possess no more than a 30-day supply of medical cannabis as determined by the certifying physician.
The law protects patients, growers, caregivers, physicians, processors, and dispensaries acting per the regulations set forth. Employers may not discriminate against an individual for their status as a registered patient, though they are not required to permit onsite use.
Currently, no regulations address the gifting of medical cannabis or traveling with medical cannabis.
Patients and caregivers who knowingly possess more than a 30-day supply of medical cannabis face penalties of up to six months in jail.
Home cultivation is prohibited. Patients may obtain cannabis only from regulated West Virginia dispensaries after they become operational.
Medical Marijuana Registry
The West Virginia Bureau of Health regulates the state’s medical marijuana program.
Patients with one of the following medical conditions qualify for medical marijuana:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Intractable seizures
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Severe chronic or intractable pain if conventional treatment has proved ineffective
- Sickle cell anemia
- Spinal cord damage
- Terminal illness
The Bureau of Health is currently developing the process through which patients can obtain a medical cannabis ID card. Applications will be available online. Patients will be charged $50 for an identification card, and the fee can be waived for financial hardship.
A caregiver is an individual designated by a patient or their legal parent or guardian if a patient is younger than 18,, who is authorized to purchase and deliver medical cannabis on behalf of a patient. A caregiver must be at least 21 years old and may be designated by up to five patients. Caregivers must undergo criminal background checks and submit an application to the Bureau of Health for registry and an identification card.
At this time, regulations and application procedures to become a caregiver are not yet drafted. There will be a $50 processing fee for caregiver applications, which may be waived if the applicant demonstrates financial hardship.
A physician must register with the Bureau of Health and complete a four-hour continuing medical education course to be able to certify qualifying patients for medical cannabis use. The doctor must specify in the certificate that the patient is likely to receive therapeutic benefit from medical cannabis use, and may specify the type of cannabis to be used in treatment. The patient must remain under the doctor’s continuous care for the qualifying condition, and the doctor must report to the bureau if the patient no longer needs access to medical cannabis.
Currently, the Bureau of Health is soliciting proposals for the development of the required physician training course.
Physicians who intentionally and knowingly certify an individual who does not qualify for medical cannabis will face felony charges.
Pending regulations, the Bureau of Health may enter into agreements with other states to allow terminally ill cancer patients to buy cannabis in another state with an existing, comparable medical marijuana system in place.
The Bureau of Health is currently drafting regulations to determine cannabis lab testing requirements, labeling requirements, and the certification of lab testing facilities.
Initially, the Bureau of Health is allowed to issue permits for up to 10 growers and up to two locations per grower, 10 processors, and 100 dispensaries. Applicants must apply for a permit and meet the list of requirements, which includes background checks, business plans, completion of a 2-hour training course, and other regulations that are yet to be defined by the bureau.
Applicants will pay $2,500 per dispensary application fee and $5,000 per grower or processor application. Annual registration fees are $10,000 for each dispensary location and $50,000 for growers and processors.
Dispensaries must pay a 10% tax on sales to patients or caregivers.
CBD and Hemp Rules
In April 2019, Justice signed HB 2694, which modified West Virginia’s hemp licensing program and ensured the continuation of cannabidiol (CBD) sales in the state. The legislation defined hemp as an agricultural commodity, clarified that hemp-derived cannabinoids are not controlled substances, and determined that products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids intended for ingestion are to be considered food products.
Hemp growers must apply to the Department of Agriculture for licensing and are valid until December 31 of the year in which they are approved. Individuals seeking to handle, possess, or sell hemp products do not need to obtain a license.