West Virginia Medicinal Cannabis Program Inches Along; USDA Approves WV’s Hemp Plan

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Medicinal cannabis in West Virginia has been slow going. In 2017, West Virginia governor Jim Justice signed into law the Medical Cannabis Act which allowed for regulated cannabis products to be purchased by those with specific medical conditions which included cancer, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, neuropathy, and Parkinson’s disease. Patients could only purchase it in “other forms” which include creams, dermal patches, liquids, oils, and pills (in other words, no flower). 

But last week, The National Organization For Reforming Marijuana Laws (NORML), highlighted West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s March 24 signing into law of Senate Bill 339, which now finally adds “dry leaf or plant form” to that list. This means that when dispensaries in West Virginia finally open, they can sell flower.

NORML releases a scorecard for governors each year and the 2020 edition gave Justice a “D.” NORML’s scorecard cites legislation signed by Justice that is not yet operational and vetoed legislation that would have allowed dispensaries more freedom in how their business operated. It also quotes Justice, who said in his January 2019 State of the State address to the West Virginia legislature that he is, “adamantly—etched in stone—adamantly against recreational marijuana.”

The Intercept recently profiled Stephen Smith, a progressive Democrat and one of five people running for governor against Justice. Smith’s “People’s Platform” includes a section titled “Legalize Cannabis.” Along with a promise to “fully legalize cannabis in West Virginia,” the plan also says it will prioritize small farms over “Big Ag and Big Pharma” for cannabis growing, expunge cannabis convictions, allow gun owners to purchase cannabis without losing their gun license, “discourage cannabis drug tests,” and more.

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the approval of West Virginia’s regulatory plan for commercialized hemp. Since the 2018 Farm Bill, which made hemp legal on the federal level, the USDA has been slowly approving proposals. West Virginia and South Carolina, which were also approved on the same day, moves the number of states with approved plans to 14.

You can read West Virginia’s Hemp Plan here.

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