Sales of medical cannabis in West Virginia delayed for at least another year


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Medical cannabis patients in West Virginia are still waiting to get their hands on plant-based medicines. Despite the fact that legalization was enacted in April of 2017, state lawmakers have left consumers and business owners on tenterhooks as the launch date remains unconfirmed.

Cannabis advocacy group the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) says that a leading prosecutor in the conservative state has contributed to the slow rollout of legal medical cannabis sales in West Virginia.
Southern District U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart “has exacerbated the problem by threatening to prosecute businesses that enter the medical cannabis space,” claims the MPP.

The tedious wait could linger until 2020 or 2021, according to industry analysts. To make matters worse, business license holders in the conservative state have been restricted to selling cannabis-containing oils, pills, topical creams and ointments.

Smokable cannabis flower and cannabinoid-infused edibles will not be allowed inside dispensaries once they open for business. This will create limitations not only for business owners who want to profit from West Virginia’s medical cannabis industry but also for consumers, many of whom are already losing their patience.

Banking vendors for West Virginia’s medical cannabis industry are yet to be selected

West Virginia State officials believe that banking restrictions have put a spanner in the works for medical cannabis company owners, who are unable to start welcoming customers inside their dispensaries due to an inability to conduct business transactions legally utilizing the services of a third-party banking services vendor.

Proposals to participate in West Virginia’s medical cannabis program have been submitted by five separate banking institutions. The proposals are still awaiting review. According to treasury officials, the current situation indicates a “blackout period” in which they are unable to officially comment on the situation until a vendor has been allocated to manage cannabis transactions.

Once a vendor has been selected, the commencement of legal cannabis sales in West Virginia may not happen for a further two to three years, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health & Human Resources.

What will the business aspect of West Virginia’s medical cannabis industry entail?

Legislation that was approved in May outlines the grower, processor and dispensary limits for West Virginia’s medical cannabis program. Permits will be distributed amongst applicants after they receive written approval from the board of health. It is possible for sole business owners and larger establishments to apply for a license in each category. However, dispensary permits are limited to 10 per sole entity.

Once the program is in full effect, a maximum of 10 growers will be granted permits to cultivate the plant in two locations. The dispensary limit is set at 100 and the processor limit at just 10, meaning that competition will be stiff for cannabis businesses hoping to earn money with the state’s medical cannabis industry.

The initial goal for West Virginia’s medical cannabis industry was for the program to launch on the first day of July, but this launch date was postponed as a result of the state’s banking predicament. HB 2538 was passed earlier in the year to address the state’s “inability to provide banking services needed to collect and remit the fees, penalties and taxes authorized,” but the delay continues.

Meanwhile, potential license applicants can prepare for the industry’s long-awaited launch by monitoring the business strategies implemented by medical cannabis operates in nearby states like Ohio, as well as by securing their retail locations.