West Virginia in Early Stages of Medical Marijuana Planning
West Virginia officials say they're in the early stages of developing a plan to implement the state's new medical marijuana law.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources has devoted a section of its website to frequently asked questions and more information, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.
Only one agency responsible for nominating a member to the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Advisory Board has publicly announced the nominee — Joe Hatton, deputy commissioner for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Gov. Jim Justice signed the medical marijuana measure into law on April 19. The law permits doctors to recommend marijuana be used for medicinal purposes and establishes a regulatory system. The law states that no patient or caregiver ID cards will be issued until July 2019.
Lawmakers gave DHHR's Bureau for Public Health oversight and tasked the bureau with creating an online source of public information.
The section of the website, found at http://www.dhhr.wv.gov/bph/Pages/Medical-Cannabis-Program.aspx
, links to frequently asked questions for patients and caregivers, growers and processors, potential dispensary owners and physicians.
DHHR is currently engaged in rule-making, which means the process of agencies writing the specific plans for implementing laws the Legislature passes.
Allison Adler, spokeswoman for the DHHR, said via email that the Bureau for Public Health's commissioner's office "is in the preliminary stage of developing an implementation plan, including a legal interpretation of what rules will be necessary to fully implement the Act."
"Those rules will begin with requirements for growers/processors so that those entities can come online and begin to produce products, then detailing requirements for dispensaries and physicians, followed closely by the requirements for the registration of caregivers and patients," she wrote.
"There are many considerations such as program operation, and how applications are to be submitted by growers/processors, dispensaries, patients and caregivers, and physicians," she added.
The Department of Agriculture is the only entity, so far, that has selected its representative on the medical cannabis advisory board.
Agriculture spokesman Crescent Gallagher said that Commissioner Kent Leonhardt selected Hatton, a certified crop adviser and certified grassland professional.
"As a lifelong farmer, I think this is a great opportunity to show what we can do in agriculture," Hatton said, in a phone interview.
He noted that West Virginia will have to look to other states such as Colorado, since West Virginians have experience, "but not with the legal variety." He noted that "this can't be grown out in the middle of an open field."
He also has unanswered questions.
"It has to be profitable," he said. "We haven't talked about the structure ... who's going to own the crop? Who's going to own the marijuana? Will it be the farmers or the pharmaceutical companies or the state of West Virginia?"