West Virginia’s long-overdue medical cannabis market kicks off

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Friday, November 12, the wheels of West Virginia’s potential $40 million medical cannabis program were finally set in motion. The state became the 29th in the U.S. to pass a medical cannabis law on April 19, 2017.

The eagerly-anticipated launch of West Virginia’s medical cannabis market emerged four years and seven months after state lawmakers approved SB 386, which permitted pharmaceutical-grade cannabis sale and cultivation. 

“West Virginia holds the unfortunate record for the slowest state to implement medical cannabis access. Many patients have surely died waiting,” wrote the state policies director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) state policies director, Karen O’Keefe, in an email to MJBizDaily.

The tedious implementation of West Virginia’s medical cannabis program has been attributed to a lack of banking services for the federally illegal industry. According to MPP officials, the predicament was “exacerbated” by a U.S. law enforcement officer who threatened “to prosecute businesses that enter the medical cannabis space.”

West Virginia’s medical cannabis market: Delays and restrictions are easing

In spite of delays and limitations, the outlook for West Virginia’s medical cannabis industry looks set to drastically improve over the coming months; numerous businesses are anticipated to open in the next few weeks.

If the MJBizFactbook’s updated predictions are correct, West Virginia’s medical cannabis market could turn over sales of $400,000 -$500,000 this year. However, thanks to regular developments, analysts believe that this sales forecast will rise to $6 million next year, before swelling to $40 million annually by 2025.

Of the many cannabis retail stores that will be participating in West Virginia’s nascent industry, well-known multi-state corporation Trulieve was first to open its doors. The company already launched two dispensaries in the state this November — one in Morgantown and another in Weston.

O’Keefe predicts that West Virginia’s market will function similarly to Pennsylvania’s, “except scaled to a much smaller population.” Just like the neighboring Pennsylvania medical cannabis market, West Virginia initially outlawed edibles and smokable flower, but has since revised its laws to permit raw flower for vaporization purposes.

However, state cannabis attorney Floyd “Kin” Sayre III says that the state’s small population of 1.8 million is a major limitation.

Big cannabis players possess permits to operate in West Virginia’s medical cannabis market

A number of well-known players are set to dominate the medical cannabis market in West Virginia. They include New York-headquartered Columbia Care, Maryland-headquartered Harvest Care Medical, Massachusetts-headquartered Holistic Industries and Illinois-headquartered Verano Holdings. 

All of the aforementioned companies managed to bag permits for operating dispensaries, as well as permits for processing and cultivating the plant. The maximum number of dispensary permits made available to local businesses (10) were awarded to Harvest Care and Holistic. 

Meanwhile, Verano was awarded seven and Columbia Care – which started constructing its cannabis grow facility in July – was awarded five. During the month of May, a portion of the $55 million Holistic generated through fundraising was earmarked for West Virginia’s medical cannabis market. Construction is ongoing for Harvest Care’s cannabis cultivation site in the heavily Republican state.