Health Policy Update

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April 20, 2017

West Virginia recently joined 31 other states and territories in authorizing and regulating the use of medical marijuana. The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health is charged with implementing the program and responsible for issuing identification cards to patients and caregivers, as well as maintaining a registry of physicians authorized to issue certifications to patients to use medical marijuana. Before being authorized to issue the certifications, physicians must complete an educational course developed by the bureau. The law stipulates medical conditions for which patients may use medical marijuana, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, MS, epilepsy, PTSD, and severe chronic or intractable pain.

The bureau is also charged with overseeing the cultivation, production, and dispensing of the marijuana, and may issue up to ten permits for growers, ten permits for processors, and 30 permits for dispensaries. The law does not allow patients or caregivers to grow their own medical marijuana. Strict limits are also placed on the forms of medical marijuana that may be dispensed to patients and caregivers. These forms include pills, oils, topicals (e.g., gels, creams, ointments), tinctures, liquids, dermal patches, and forms medically appropriate for vaporization or nebulization. The law specifically prohibits the smoking of medical marijuana and the sale of edibles.

The bureau is authorized to restrict the advertising and marketing of medical marijuana if such actions are consistent with federal rules for advertising and marketing prescription drugs. Along with the West Virginia Department of Revenue, the bureau has been tasked with monitoring the price of medical marijuana and may cap the price if it is found to be unreasonable or excessive. In addition, the bureau is instructed to establish and develop a research program to study the impact of medical cannabis on the treatment and symptom management of serious medical conditions.

There are many more provisions in the new legislation, including measures for medical marijuana taxation, employment protections for patients, county-level prohibitions, and use by school-age patients on school grounds. ASTHO will continue to monitor and provide its members with assistance on issues surrounding medical marijuana. For a current look at the status of marijuana legalization efforts in the United States, please visit ASTHO’s marijuana overview map.