Updated on December 9, 2017. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has signed Senate Bill 386, which legalizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The bill, which was introduced by Democratic Senator Richard Ojeda, will set up the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Commission. This commission will create the regulatory framework for the state’s Bureau of Public Health and the issuance of marijuana ID cards starting July 1, 2019.
With the establishment of a medical cannabis program, West Virginia has become the 29th state in the U.S. to decriminalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes. The new law will help all those who have suffered greatly from chronic pain and debilitating ailments to enjoy relief through the use of marijuana without being arrested for illegal possession.
The new West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act will permit patients who are suffering from sixteen conditions to get registered and obtain an ID card after they are certified by their doctor. All doctors who recommend patients for medical cannabis must have an up-to-date license from the Bureau of Public Health.
Some of the conditions included in the bill include HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, terminal illnesses, ALS, sickle cell anemia and multiple sclerosis.
However, to the disappointment of many advocates of the medical marijuana bill, the new law does not permit the cultivation of cannabis plants at home. Only an approved dispensary is allowed to sell marijuana as oils, pills, gels, creams and ointments. Other forms include liquid, tincture dermal patches and non-whole-plant formats that can be administered with a vaporizer.
Senator Richard Ojeda, the sponsor of the bill, is a retired soldier who believes that the signing of the bill will help to reduce the suffering of other veterans who are dealing with from post-traumatic stress disorder. The availability of medical cannabis is also expected to drastically reduce the overuse of opioid painkillers and raise the state’s tax revenues.
Medical marijuana laws in West Virginia were among the most restrictive in the entire country. The state previously didn’t even allow patients suffering from severe epileptic seizures to have access to cannabidiol (CBD) oil, even though the oil is legal in many other states. Newly passed S.B. 386 offers hope by allowing WV patients suffering from 16 conditions to apply for a medical cannabis card with permission from their physicians.
Recreational use of marijuana will remain illegal in West Virginia under the new legislation. For non-registered users, possession is considered a misdemeanor for first-time offenders and is punishable by anywhere from 90 days to six months in jail and a fine of as much as $1,000.
A second or subsequent violation can result in as long as a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. First-offenders, in some instances, may be eligible for deferred prosecution. Those who plead guilty can see their charges dismissed if they successfully comply with all requirements regarding their probation.
Anyone caught trying to sell marijuana paraphernalia will be looking at anywhere from six months to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
S.B. 386 also sets out penalties for the distribution of medical marijuana. The bill penalizes physicians who knowingly certify an individual who does not qualify for medical cannabis. Physicians in violation of the bill will face felony charges. The bill also sets statutes about possession of medical marijuana. An ID card will allow individuals to go to a dispensary and obtain a 30-day supply of medical cannabis. However, the bill prohibits the possession of more than the allowed amount of medical cannabis, stating that patients and caregivers who are in violation could face up to six months of jail time
Also, the new legislation will create a new standard for people who are driving under the influence of marijuana. If a THC level of 3 ng/ml is discovered in the blood, that’s regarded as impairment. This is rather strict, and even lower than the five nanograms per milliliter adopted by Washington and Colorado, where marijuana is allowed for recreational use.
A Medical Cannabis Board will be appointed upon review of the law. Individuals appointed to this board will be responsible for developing guidelines for licensing growers, dispensaries, and processors. The board will also be responsible for educating physicians and creating an electronic database to store patient information. The tide has turned regarding medical marijuana laws in West Virginia. We’ll continue to monitor the situation in the state and provide updates as developments warrant. If you suffer from any of the conditions covered by West Virginia’s new medical marijuana law, browse our directory to get connected with a qualified doctor today.