It has taken a little more than four years, but West Virginia has finally opened its first medical marijuana dispensary.
Trulieve, a cannabis company with retail locations in multiple states, has officially opened shop. It marked the occasion by holding a ribbon cutting event in Morgantown, West Virginia on Friday, completing plans it first initiated earlier this year when it received dispensary permits from the state.
“We’re thrilled to be first to market in West Virginia and to continue building the foundation for the West Virginia’s emerging medical cannabis market,” Kim Rivers, the CEO of Trulieve, said in a statement.
“Our team is especially eager to leverage our first-mover advantage to bolster local economies by creating sustainable jobs and investing in marginalized communities. We look forward to serving West Virginia patients, who have been patiently waiting for this day to arrive, with an unparalleled retail experience and the high-quality medical cannabis products they can rely on for safe and effective relief.”
The company said it “first announced plans to enter West Virginia in February 2021 after securing four dispensary permits from the state’s Office of Medical Cannabis.” Over the last three months, Trulieve said it “has strategically scaled its cultivation capacity to meet forthcoming patient demand and plans to open more dispensary storefronts across West Virginia in the coming year,” while also establishing partnerships with various community organizations throughout the Mountain State.
“The company participated in several educational and community events this October and will continue its efforts assisting future patients and partnering with healthcare practitioners around the applications of medical cannabis,” the company said in a press release.
A publicly traded company, Trulieve bills itself as “an industry leading, vertically integrated cannabis company and multi-state operator in the U.S. operating in 11 states, with leading market positions in Arizona, Florida, and Pennsylvania.”
Friday’s opening of the retail location in Morgantown is a long time coming for medical cannabis advocates in West Virginia.
Lawmakers in West Virginia passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in 2017, and the bill was signed into law by Republican Governor Jim Justice.
But as has been the case in other states that have legalized the treatment, the rollout of the new medical cannabis law has been slow. In West Virginia’s case, the implementation of the law was “initially delayed because of concerns about who will provide banking services to the state’s medical cannabis program and to medical cannabis businesses,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
Legislators in the state sought to mitigate the dilemma with the passage of a 2019 bill “that allowed credit unions to bid for the state’s account and sought to protect state employees from potential prosecution,” MPP explained. Justice signed the legislation into law.
Earlier this year finally brought meaningful progress. In May, West Virginia finally opened up registration for eligible patients to join the medical marijuana program.
Per the state’s Office of Medical Cannabis, patients suffering from the following qualifying conditions are eligible to join the program: cancer, position status for human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, neuropathies, Huntington’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, sickle cell anemia, severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain and terminal illness that is defined as a medical prognosis of life expectancy of approximately one year or less if the illness runs its normal course.
Shortly after opening up registration in May, the Office of Medical Cannabis said that it had received nearly 1,400 applications from would-be patients. That number has grown considerably since then.
Trulieve said that, as of November 4, the office had received more than 4,000 applications.
Many medical cannabis patients in the state have been fighting for safe access for years. On Friday morning, the first legal purchase of medical cannabis in the state was made by a combat veteran Sgt. Rob Frye, according to The Record Delta. After working in the U.S. Army for nearly two decades, Sgt. Fyre was medically retired and received a Purple Heart, due to being hit by a roadside bomb in 2003. “I came home to West Virginia, and I’ve been fighting for the legalization of marijuana ever since,” he shared.