Blog

The Current State of Cannabis in West Virginia

Jan, 2022
Image for The Current State of Cannabis in West Virginia

If you opened this page with hopes of seeing recreational weed legal in WV, then you might be disappointed. There is nothing concrete on that front yet. At the moment, only patients with serious medical conditions can legally purchase and possess cannabis in West Virginia using their medical cannabis patient card. 

The options are limited, and the WV weed laws are unclear. Despite growing at a plodding pace, a lot is happening in the state’s cannabis industry, thanks to the delayed finalization of West Virginia cannabis laws.

So, what’s up with West Virginia cannabis laws? What do you need to know about WV weed laws and how they affect you? What is the actual state of cannabis in West Virginia? 

Well, let’s start from the roots.

Cannabis in West Virginia

Of Biases, Conservatism, and Considerations 

With less than 2 million residents, WV is one of the states with the fewest persons in the US. Weirdly, it’s also one of the states with the most persistent drug abuse problems and devastations in the past three decades. Hence, it comes as no surprise that lawmakers clench their fists whenever the issue of cannabis in West Virginia is under debate. 

For the longest time, the state’s war on marijuana was commensurate with wars on opioids and other harmful substances. Thus, WV weed laws bore some of the strictest policies in the country. To date, while most states that have not legalized recreational marijuana may overlook a seemingly insignificant possession of marijuana, WV does not allow for the possession of any amount of weed. 

However, when WV puts up marijuana-related arrest records for examination, things get weird. 

The Biases 

Records show that while marijuana use and possession is a widespread concern in the state, the racial disparity in arrests is blatant. Various groups decried the unfair approach in handling the war on marijuana, riding on the back of racially biased arrests. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published two reports outlining these problems.

The first report, The War On Marijuana In Black And White, which covered marijuana arrests from 2001 to 2010, shows that Black Americans were 3.3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in West Virginia. And the subsequent report, A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Cannabis Reform, which covered marijuana-related arrests from 2010 to 2018, indicated that Black residents were 7.3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents in WV. 

Generally, WV ranks as the fourth state for most significant racial disparities in marijuana possession arrests, with Preston and Putnam ranking among the worst counties in the country for racial inequality.

Drawing an inference from these reports, it becomes evident that, while most states were becoming lenient and embracing cannabis reforms, WV leaned towards the opposite. It’s a seemingly clear indication that it will be long before we see weed legal in WV. 

Conservatism 

While most states were dancing to the tunes of time and embracing the benefits and statewide improvements of legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, the West Virginia cannabis laws faced resistance to reforms. The policies that saw the establishment of the state’s medical cannabis programs underwent a back-and-forth routine that delayed the program by another four years. 

The program’s opponents were unwilling to let go of the past. They cited that legalizing medical marijuana would be a gateway for legalizing recreational marijuana. Some even likened it to surrendering to the War on Drugs. 

Science and positive evidence from other states, including neighboring Virginia – the first southern state to legalize marijuana – were not enough to push opposition to embrace reforms. 

Treating Debilitating Conditions and Knocking Down the Opioid Pandemic 

Although 55% of drug-related arrests in WV are of marijuana possession, it’s not an accurate indication of the most pressing drug problem in the state. At 42.4 opioid-involved overdose deaths per 100,000 persons, WV tops the US chart for the most opioid overdose death rates. The state is struggling with a severe opioid epidemic.

Thankfully, proponents believe that reforming WV weed laws and regulating cannabis in West Virginia can truncate the debilitating effects of the opioid epidemic significantly. 

Research indicates that access to medical marijuana may result in a decrease in prescription painkiller abuse and overdose. Marijuana is a potent painkiller without the adverse effects of synthetic opioids. 

In place of these opioid prescriptions, marijuana could help treat the effects of various medical conditions. For a list of qualifying conditions, scroll down further.

Economic Returns: Reserving and Putting Money in the State Coffers

As of 2010, WV spent $17.4 million as the direct annual fiscal cost for enforcing the marijuana possession law. With legalization and regulation, the expenditure should drop significantly. The state projects a flourishing cannabis industry to raise tax revenue of $44.8 million annually. With out-of-state demands, the tax returns could reach $194 million. 

Additionally, employment opportunities and business attractions are factored in the economic consideration.  

The History of the Legislation of Medical Cannabis in West Virginia 

cannabis in west virginia; weed leaf on gavel

There have been previous attempts – between 2010 to 2015 – to pass bills and legalize medical cannabis in West Virginia. However, it was not until April 19, 2017, that the state signed Senate Bill 386 into law. Finally, this provided legal room for creating the Medical Cannabis Program, making WV the 29th state to sign a medical cannabis law.

The program is backed and facilitated by the WV Department of Health and Human Resources, Office of Medical Cannabis, and Bureau for Public Health. Over the years, the state has made some changes to the law. 

2018

Residents expected the law to become effective in July 2018, but officials held things off due to legal deliberations. However, they tabled amendment recommendations to allow dry leaf or plant forms of medical cannabis.

2019

Again, West Virginia rescheduled the program to open to patients in 2019. This time, it was due to concerns about providing banking services for the medical cannabis program. According to federal laws, since cannabis is a controlled substance, financial institutions cannot offer a direct financial gateway for cannabis-related transactions. 

Consequently, the state passed House Bill 2538. This allowed credit unions to step in and bid for the state’s account while enjoying some levels of protection from federal prosecution. The state also passed Bill 1037 to allow for vertical integration of dispensaries in WV, increasing the number of allowable dispensaries to 100. 

2020

Some of the legislative recommendations made in 2018 were accepted and passed through SB 339. Thus, the legislature added “dry leaf or plant form” to the law. This was a big win because the previously accepted forms of medical cannabis were limited and provided minimal options for patients. 

Again, everyone expected sales to start in 2020, but that didn’t happen. 

2021

2021 saw SB 231 come into play, amending several sections of the Medical Cannabis Act, including approved conditions and patient fees. Finally, the state smoothened the edges of the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, and it became available for patient registration. However, they blocked attempts to include edibles in the list of permitted forms of medical cannabis.

It was not until November 12, 2021, that the first dispensary opened in West Virginia. 

WV weed laws for medical use are still facing strong opposition in the state’s legislative corridors. 

However, Governor Jim Justice, who was previously an ardent opponent of legalizing any form of cannabis, stated that his position is weakening. He said he is open to legalizing recreational marijuana IF the House members support it. 

If you're a resident, you can send a message to your lawmakers to support the legalization of cannabis in West Virginia. 

LEARN MORE: West Virginia Medical Marijuana FAQs

Medical Cannabis Program Regulations 

cannabis dispensary; cannabis in west virginia

The following are some things you should know if you are keen on accessing medical cannabis in West Virginia. 

  1. You must register for the Medical Cannabis Program and have a patient card. 
  2. According to the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources, only patients with serious conditions listed below can apply:
  1. Acceptable forms of medical cannabis include pills, gels, creams, oils, tinctures, ointments, non-whole plant forms, dry leaf, and liquids medically approved admissible by vaporization or nebulization. Smoking and edible cannabis consumption is not permitted, but you can add medical cannabis products to your drink or food. 
  2. You cannot grow cannabis at home.
  3. Your employers cannot discriminate against you because of your medical cannabis possession. However, they can limit your usage within the workplace.
  4. You cannot drive if you have more than three nanograms of THC per mm of blood serum. This could mean that you will never drive again if you are a regular consumer. 
  5. Your county may ban or limit medical cannabis businesses and use.
  6. The Medical Cannabis Act protects you from arrest and prosecution if you abide by the regulations provided by the act.

Medical Marijuana Cards for Medical Cannabis Patients in West Virginia 

Due to varying limitations, many patients find it challenging to obtain a medical card for cannabis in West Virginia. Thankfully, before you know it, Elevate Holistics will be here to help. While we aren't currently live in WV, we have plans to roll out our telehealth services in 2022. This way, getting your WV MMJ card will be 100% online and 100% hassle-free.

Our services allow you to book and have a virtual appointment with a state-certified doctor. Then, you can get your medical cannabis recommendation and obtain your WV MMJ card within 48 hours. We really do make it that simple. At the end of the day, our goal is always to ensure the best of healthy living through the growth of medical cannabis. 

As soon as we go live in The Mountain State, we'll let you know. For now, check out our WV patient resources to get familiar with cannabis in West Virginia.


Wondering how to get a medical card in WV? Click here to learn more.

Check out our West Virginia MMJ FAQ to get all your questions answered.

Do you qualify for medical marijuana? Find out by exploring our Qualifying Conditions page.