At least 18 states in the United States have authorized the possession of recreational marijuana, while 36 states, including West Virginia, have permitted the medicinal use of cannabis alone.
Let’s focus on West Virginia. In 2017, the medical use of cannabis was legalized through legislation, but the recreational use of this substance is still illegal. In fact, the possession of small amounts is considered a misdemeanor crime.
Though the state has already allowed the circulation of medicinal cannabis, it is very clear that the progress of cannabis acceptance is indeed slow growing. So, if you’re about to visit West Virginia or have something important to do in this state, make sure you know the laws and regulations, specifically when it comes to consuming cannabis.
In this article, we’ll help you understand more about the current state of cannabis in West Virginia and what are the developments in the sector. Read on for more details.
Legalization of Cannabis in West Virginia
Each year from 2010 to 2015, West Virginia Senate Bill 546 and House Bill 2909 attempted to legalize marijuana for medicinal use, but both failed to move before the legislative session ended on 14 March.
The legalization of medicinal marijuana was made possible by Senate Bill 386, which was signed into law in 2017. Gov. Justice enacted it on April 19, 2017. It took effect in July of that year. On the other hand, according to the state’s dhhr.wv.gov website, patients and caregivers won’t be able to receive medical cannabis cards until July 1, 2019.
Medical cannabis users were finally able to register for the program in 2021, on February 3. In late January, the state awarded 100 licenses for dispensaries. Medical marijuana was first banned from being obtained in its natural, flower form by patients. Legislators passed SB 339 in 2020, which said that “dry leaf or plant form” might be used as a synonym for “whole-plant cannabis” in 2018.
To begin with, worries regarding who would offer financial services to the state’s medical cannabis program and medical cannabis businesses delayed the introduction of the program. This has been made worse by Southern District U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart’s threat of prosecution against medicinal cannabis enterprises.
New legislation, HB 2538, was introduced in 2019 as part of an effort to deal with these banking difficulties and to safeguard state personnel from possible criminal punishment. The measure was signed into law by Governor Justice. Legislators in 2019 also enacted SB 1037, a law that enabled mergers of dispensaries and raised the number of dispensaries in the state to 100.
West Virginia Cannabis Penalties
Not less than 90 days or more than six months, and not more than $1,000 fines, can be imposed for the possession of any amount of marijuana in West Virginia. A first-time crime of possessing less than 15 grams of marijuana might result in a conditional discharge.
For a first-time drug possession accusation, the court has the option of granting probation with the usual array of drug testing and supervision. Getting your license suspended or revoked does not constitute a criminal conviction.
Felons can face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $15,000 for the sale and distribution of drugs. One year to five years in jail and a fine of up to $15,000 is the maximum penalty for trafficking marijuana into West Virginia.
Sales or distribution to minors in West Virginia is subject to two-year statutory minimum sentences, as well as penalties for sales and deliveries within 1,000 feet of an educational facility. Cultivation on the other hand will be penalized in West Virginia based on the total weight of the plants detected as either simple possession or as possession with the intention of distribution.
Anyone who owns or operates an illegal drug paraphernalia business is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to a fine of up to $5,000 or six months to one year in jail for their involvement in the operation. Subsequent offense arrests for both possession and distribution are eligible for double the punishment laid forth in the statute.
For a first-time drug possession accusation, the court can provide probation with the usual array of drug testing and supervision that is normally part of the probation procedure. Discharge is not a criminal offense.
After a guilty verdict of a drug distribution or manufacturing case, the State is entitled to all of the property and assets associated with the manufacture and transportation of restricted drugs, including automobiles, residences, and monetary money, as well.
Cannabis Industry’s Recent Developments in West Virginia
On the second week of November 2021, a medical cannabis dispensary in Mountain State Morgantown opened its doors. This is one of the state’s limited forays into the cannabis business.
TerraLeaf’s Vice President, Bill Shapiro, says: “We at the firm are committed to making a difference and are certain that we can do so. Our goal is to serve others, and that’s why we’re here.”
If owner Chris Visco can get her hands on local goods, the TerraLeaf dispensary in Huntington will open in the first week of December. As a result of their several licenses, local farmers do not sell to other dispensaries. In her opinion, “the state has been over-licensed,” she stated.
It has been frustrating for Visco, who owns many dispensaries in Pennsylvania, to put in so much effort in West Virginia yet receive so little aid and support from the state to see this new program succeed. In an interview, she says she’s optimistic, but she’s most concerned about patients who haven’t yet been given access to medical marijuana.
A product has finally come to market, but it won’t be available to those who have waited four years, she added. Medical marijuana patient applications have surpassed 4,000, according to the Office of Medical Cannabis. Applicants should expect their applications to be processed in a time frame of 30 to 90 days.
Ten grower permits, ten processing permits, and 100 dispensary permits were given out by the state. Only three growers are now in operation. As to OMC, those who don’t make continuous progress toward operational status may face penalties, which may include cancellation of their authorization altogether.
Once the seeds are sown, it will be many months before the plants are ready to be harvested and turned into goods. “I can’t wait to get our office up and running and start assisting people,” Shapiro adds. “We’re at the top of the heap,” he said. It’s a matter of faith for us,” they say. We’re advocates, and we want everyone to be happy and healthy.