Thanks to a decision this week by the West Virginia board that regulates medicinal cannabis in the state, this state could allow smokable forms of medical marijuana, according to reports in local media.
The West Virginia legislature legalized medical marijuana in 2017 and established the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to recommend policy. The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Bureau for Public Health oversees implementation of the law and the state’s medical cannabis program.
The advisory board met Tuesday at the University of Charleston and heard recommendations from three different subgroups. The subgroups have been working to address concerns from the medical cannabis community about the new law.
The law bans smoking medical marijuana, a provision criticised by cannabis advocates. One of the subgroups was charged with determining whether flower, leaf and other dry plant forms of marijuana should be allowed.
The subgroup, chaired by Dr. Michelle Easton, decided that these cured plant types of cannabis should be permitted for use in vaporizers. The board agreed, but left in place the prohibition against smoking.
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Dr. Rahul Gupta, the commissioner for DHHR’s bureau for public health and state health officer, acknowledged that once someone has these forms of cannabis, it’s really up to them what happens next.
“People can combust [it] themselves if they want, but that’s not what we’re advocating or recommending,” said Dr. Gupta.
That group also recommended rescheduling cannabis in the state from Schedule 1 to Schedule 4. The board postponed approval of that recommendation until it can obtain more information on the legal ramifications of the proposal.
A second subgroup reviewed the supply chain authorized by the state’s medical marijuana law and its effect on patients ability to affordably access their medicine.
Current regulations permit only 10 cultivators, 10 processors, and 30 dispensaries. The subgroup recommended an increase or elimination of those caps.
West Virginia’s medical marijuana law limits patients who can participate in the program to those suffering from a specific list of serious medical conditions, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, chronic pain and others. The third working group reviewed that list and make recommendations on new additions.
Dr. Jim Felsen, the leader of that subgroup, said that they had decided not to add any more conditions at this time.
He noted that he had received many requests to include anxiety “but just throwing anxiety on their qualifies 80 percent of the population to get cannabis and I don’t think—reading the statute—that’s what the Legislature had in mind.”
Final Hit: This State Could Allow Smokable Forms of Medical Marijuana
Jim Kennison is a Vietnam veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and ALS. He expressed his gratitude and contrition to the board.
“I don’t have time and I want to apologize for a couple of shout-outs. That was me. It was because sometimes I get a little tired with playing around with the semantics … when I was coming up here I was thinking man, I could use a little oil because my anxiety level is through the roof.”
Legislative staff will be clarifying the entire set of recommendations from Tuesday’s advisory board meeting within days. They will then be presented to the legislature, which is now in session.
West Virginia’s medical cannabis law goes into effect in 2019, with the first patients expected to receive identification cards in July of that year.
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