West Virginia

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Cannabis Legalization in West Virginia

Bottom Line:

West Virginia has an early-stage medical cannabis policy in place, though continues to heavily punish the possession and consumption of recreational cannabis. Even the smallest amount held for personal use constitutes a misdemeanour.

West Virginia is legendary for its harsh and restrictive approach to the procurement, possession and consumption of cannabis. The state does have an early-level medical cannabis program up and running, but it will be sometime before legal sales begin. In the meantime, it is still extremely difficult for many patients to gain access to the medical cannabis they need in West Virginia:

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When Was Medical Cannabis Legalized in West Virginia?

Attempts were made to bring new medical cannabis legislation into effect in 2010 and 2015 – both of which failed. It wasn’t until much later in 2017 that the passing of Senate Bill 386 would effectively legalize the use of medical cannabis for qualifying medical conditions. Subsequently, the new laws would officially become effective as of July 2018. Medical cannabis sales did not begin as of this date, however. In fact, it is highly unlikely any medical cannabis will be sold legally in West Virginia until 2020 at the earliest.

Is Recreational Marijuana Legal in West Virginia?

West Virginia has always handed out heavy punishments for illegal cannabis use. Even today, there are no signs of the state decriminalizing small quantities of cannabis in the near future at least. As it stands, possession of any amount of cannabis whatsoever is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. Even as a first offense, you could still see yourself serving time behind bars. A harsh policy that’s been criticized heavily by cannabis advocates across the county.

So, Medical Cannabis is Legal, But Unavailable?

Yes – West Virginia’s state-wide cannabis policy went into effect in 2018, having been approved the prior year. Nevertheless, initial estimates of a 2019 opening for the state’s first dispensaries proved to be ambitious, to say the least. There’s now very little chance of medical cannabis sales starting until well into 2020 at the earliest.

How Much Does Medical Cannabis Cost in West Virginia?

It’s impossible to say, given the fact that no dispensaries have yet gone into business. However, it’s likely that only a handful of dispensaries will be selling medical cannabis by the end of 2020, so the market won’t be very competitive. Hence, general medical cannabis prices are expected to be comparatively high.

Will My Health Insurance Cover my Prescription?

Sadly not. As long as cannabis remains illegal at a Federal level – which could be some time – health insurance providers in general aren’t willing to cover the costs on behalf of their clients. With very few exceptions, medical cannabis patients have no choice but to cover the costs of their prescriptions themselves.

Can I Get Medical Cannabis if I Don’t Live in West Virginia?

You can, but only upon meeting all the criteria required to apply for and receive a West Virginia medical cannabis card. There is no allowance for using any other out-of-state cannabis card for the time being. That said, there were also no medical cannabis dispensaries up and running at the time of writing.

How Does the Application Process Work?

If you wish to apply for a medical cannabis card ahead of the first dispensary openings, you’ll first need to make an appointment with a registered physician. Qualifying for medical cannabis typically means being diagnosed with one or a number of recognized conditions, which are known to respond positively to cannabis consumption for some patients. When you receive a recommendation from your doctor, you can submit your application online.

However, it’s important to note that many doctors in West Virginia are not willing to support the use of medical cannabis. As a naturally conservative state, it’s important to ensure your initial appointment is booked with a doctor who will prescribe medical marijuana if deemed appropriate. Research the available options online ahead of time.

Can I Bring Legal Medical Cannabis Into (or Out of) West Virginia?

Under no circumstances should you ever attempt to cross any state line with medical cannabis on your person. Doing so constitutes a Federal offense – even if the cannabis has been obtained legally. Irrespective of the specific pot policies of the state in question, crossing state lines with cannabis is illegal and should not be attempted.

What Conditions Qualify Patients for Medical Cannabis in West Virginia?

The state publishes a list of formally recognized conditions, for which cannabis may be prescribed. The current list extends to cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord damage, epilepsy, neuropathies, Huntington's disease, Crohn's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, intractable seizures, sickle cell anemia, or severe chronic or intractable pain.

However, being diagnosed with any of these conditions will not necessarily guarantee a formal medical cannabis recommendation. Likewise, you may be recommended for medical cannabis by your doctor, even if you don’t have any of these formal qualifying conditions. Book an appointment with an authorized pro-pot physician in your area to discuss the options in more detail.

What Medical Cannabis Products Are Available in West Virginia?

When legal sales officially commence, cannabis product availability will be limited to liquids, gels, oils, creams, pills, and tinctures. The sale of cannabis edibles at a retail level will remain illegal, but patients will be permitted to make their own edibles at home. In addition, state law will permit consumption by vaporization, but it will remain illegal to smoke cannabis for medical purposes.

The state’s policy on edibles has been deemed counterproductive and nonsensical, as it will make it unnecessarily difficult for patients to accurately measure dosage and intake. Typical policies on edibles ensure they are available in the form of measured, consistent and quality-controlled products for the welfare and convenience of the patient.

How Much Medical Cannabis Can I Buy?

State law indicates that each patient will be able to purchase no more than a 30-day supply of medical cannabis at any one time. However, it will be up to their physician to determine how much cannabis constitutes a 30-day supply. Patients will have the option of filling their monthly quota in a single purchase, or gradually if preferred.

Can I Grow My Own Medical Cannabis in West Virginia?

It’s bad news for patients, but the answer is no. As the law stands right now, there are no allowances for patients to cultivate their own medical cannabis under any circumstances. Irrespective of how difficult and/or expensive it is to obtain, it must be purchased exclusively from a licensed dispensary. Illegal cultivation is punishable in West Virginia by serious jail-time.

What About Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis?

It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in the state of West Virginia with more than three nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood serum. This is pretty much the same as most other medical cannabis states, though it’s worth remembering that these kinds of THC levels could be detected several days after consumption. Along with the state’s standard DUI penalties, those caught with cannabis in their system who don’t have a medical permit could be liable for additional punishments – possession, trafficking, intent to supply, etc.

How Many Dispensaries Will Open in West Virginia?

The industry is currently moving at a glacial pace, so it will be some time until a decent network of dispensaries is up and running. Ultimately, the state of West Virginia has stated that it will issue no more than 100 dispensary licenses. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely more than a handful of these prospective stores will have gone into business by mid-2020.

Could My Town or District Prohibit Cannabis?

Local jurisdictions within West Virginia will not be able to override state law, with regard to the procurement and consumption of medical cannabis by registered patients. However, they have the right to prevent cannabis businesses from operating within their confines, should they wish to do so. Patients in many counties and towns across the state may, therefore, find it more difficult to access medical cannabis than others.

Will West Virginia Legalize Recreational Cannabis?

West Virginia is one of the least likely states in the US to legalize recreational cannabis. It’s one of the few remaining states to still take such a harsh stance against recreational use. If you’re caught with just a small amount on your person, you could be headed for jail. Decriminalization would, therefore, be the next stage of the journey towards legalization, but again is unlikely to happen anytime soon.