(Beckley, W,Va.) WVVA - It's been nearly three years since lawmakers in Charleston passed the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act. The permitting process, which started in December of last year, is still underway.
Counties have the power to allow or deny medical cannabis. Raleigh County Commissioners took up the issue Tuesday, voting unanimously to allow medical cannabis companies in the county.
The medical cannabis industry is getting on its feet in West Virginia. But make no mistake, this is not a recreational marijuana statute. It's strictly medicinal. Jeff Miller, county administrator for Raleigh County Commission said, "There won't be people, you know, rolling down the street smoking joints. It's a highly regulated, perhaps over-regulated, law.
Despite the red tape, businesses are eager to get on board, vying statewide for one of ten processor and grower permits, and one of 100 permits to distribute.
Appalachian Cannabis Company is already a hemp distributor. The company is now taking part in the medical cannabis permit application process, hoping to become a grower, processor and distributor, all of which, after Tuesday's county commission vote, are welcome in Raleigh County. Kristee Montgomery, an owner of Appalachian Cannabis Company, which operates statewide, said, " It’s been very proactive for Raleigh County. They’ve been very easy to work with. Some counties have been a little slower to make decisions ."
Miller explained Raleigh County's proactive stance saying, " Well it’s an opportunity for growth of businesses in Raleigh County."
There are still details to be ironed out. Right now, state law doesn't allow flowering cannabis plants- only processed forms like vape oils, which cost more to create, costs likely to be passed on to the consumer. Montgomery said, " It definitely does cost more to process rather than just selling the flower, but it is something that our legislators chose not to have included in our law. It's something that I know people are trying to change in this legislative session."
The Office of Medical Cannabis, within Department of Health and Human Resources, is accepting permit applications through February 18, 2020. Miller said DHHR advised once the permit process is complete it could take as many as six months or longer for medical cannabis companies to start operating in West Virginia.