Updated on January 3, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Although many West Virginia residents, leaders, and lawmakers support the legalization and decriminalization of cannabis, recreational marijuana remains illegal in the state. Previously, both medical and recreational marijuana were illegal in the state of West Virginia.
Governor Jim Justice has gone public with his support for legalizing medical cannabis in the state and signed SB 386 into law on April 19, 2017, making WV the 29th state to legalize medicinal marijuana. Though SB 386 protects growers and dispensaries producing medical marijuana, the state of West Virginia still prohibits cultivating, selling, distributing or possessing any amount of recreational marijuana.
Possessing any amount of recreational cannabis is a misdemeanor offense subject to incarceration for anywhere from 90 days to six months and a maximum fine of $1,000.
First-time offenders found in possession of 15g or less are eligible for conditional discharge in which they are required to enter a probation order for a period. But, as part of the process, the offender must comply with the conditions of probation which include drug testing and supervision.
Possessing with the intent to sell any amount of cannabis is a felony that can result in a sentence of one to five years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $15,000. Trafficking cannabis into the state attracts the same punishment. Being found guilty of selling or distributing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school or to a minor is subject to a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Second and subsequent offenses for possessing, selling and distributing cannabis are punished with double the penalty set forth by law.
Those found guilty of selling, distributing or trafficking marijuana into West Virginia must forfeit the proceeds of the crime as well as everything involved in the production and transportation processes, including monetary funds, vehicles, houses, drug paraphernalia, etc.
Currently, under SB 386, the arrest, prosecution, and denial of medical marijuana privileges for a registered patient or caregiver are prohibited. New crimes have been created to penalize the diversion of and other violations of SB 386. Physicians who knowingly certify patients who do not qualify for medical cannabis can face felony charges. Caregivers and patients who possess more cannabis than outlined as allowed under SB 386 may face up to six months of jail time. An advisory board will be put together to create additional regulations for the distribution of medical marijuana.
Growing cannabis attracts penalties like those for possession and sale/distribution offenses. The crime is categorized either as simple possession or possession with the intent to sell or distribute based upon the aggregate weight of the cannabis plants confiscated.
Growers and dispensaries of medical marijuana will have to obtain permits through the Bureau of Health in order to distribute or cultivate medicinal cannabis. The Bureau of Health will issue 10 grower permits, 10 processor permits, and 30 dispensary permits. Medical cannabis organizations without permits could face penalties. No home cultivation of medicinal cannabis is allowed under SB 386.
Medical marijuana recommendations will not be available until after July 1, 2019, when the first patient identification cards are issued. In order to certify a patient, physicians must register with the health bureau, complete a four-hour course through the bureau, must have treated the patient for a minimum of six months before certification, and the patient must continue to be under the physician’s care for the condition that qualifies them for medicinal cannabis.
Patients who receive medical marijuana recommendations will be limited to a 30-day supply of cannabis at a time. These patients will also have to follow regulations of performing certain activities—such as driving—if they have more than three nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood serum.
The first medical marijuana identification cards will be issued in 2019. MarijuanaDoctors.com will be collecting information about participating physicians and dispensaries as permits are distributed by the state of West Virginia.
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