CHARLESTON — Now three years and three months after West Virginia’s medical cannabis bill was passed into law, the program’s director says the state is projecting a spring 2021 launch date.
Jason Frame, executive director of the Office of Medical Cannabis, said Wednesday the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed the ongoing approval process for growers, processors and dispensaries.
Frame said he expects all grower applications to be finalized by the end of summer. The growing companies that are chosen will likely be notified this summer as well, he said.
West Virginia’s medical cannabis law allows for 10 growers, 10 processors and 100 dispensaries to operate in the state. The state received 199 dispensary applications and nearly 40 applications each for growers and processors. Frame said some of those applications are almost 1,000 pages.
Once the cannabis office finishes approving applications, Frame said the responsibility on the program’s full launch will move to the cannabis businesses.
“(Spring 2021 is) still what we’re shooting for — it is a very tight timeline — and quite a bit of that is out of our control as the state,” Frame said. “Once we announce the permit holders, the responsibility for the rollout will shift, to a certain extent, to industry. They’ll have to start building out their facilities; and again, a lot of that is out of our control.”
Frame said there are still a number of counties that haven’t authorized medical cannabis businesses to operate within the county. The office has reached out specifically to the few holdouts seeking a yes or no answer, he said.
“We’re still collecting county board of health approvals … We have the majority at this point,” Frame said.
When the cannabis bill passed in 2017, lawmakers added a provision that would mandate all 55 county boards of health to individually approve that medical cannabis businesses can operate within the county.
Mercer County is the only county thus far to reject medical cannabis businesses, Frame said.
The Kanawha County Commission cleared the way for medical cannabis businesses Feb. 1. The Putnam County Commission put the decision on the June 9 primary election ballot, which residents voted to approve.
The cannabis office opened the laboratory permit application indefinitely June 29 after only one lab applied for a permit — Microbac Laboratories in Charleston — according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Labs test the cannabis products for potency, ensuring the plants have nonexistent or only trace THC levels, or the main psychoactive component in cannabis that produces the high sensation.
Physicians can still apply for certification to prescribe patients medical cannabis once the program starts. Physicians must complete a four-hour training course and pay a $189 fee to access the required course.