Medical cannabis registrations underway, dispensaries to open in fall | News

CHARLESTON — Registration for medical cannabis use is open and ongoing in West Virginia, and dispensaries selling the products could be open for business by this fall, according to Jason Frame, director of the state medical cannabis program.

Those who qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program — which is reserved for certain medical conditions and ailments — can register by Sept. 30 for a two-year certification card. Those who register after Sept. 30 will be eligible for a one-year card.

Applications can be filed online through the state Department of Health and Human Resources at Last week, the department hosted in-person signups at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department for anyone needing to register for the service.

“There are some people who couldn’t get it done, whatever the cause, so they can come here and have an equal opportunity,” Frame said.

Last Monday’s in-person registration ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with appointments scheduled ahead of time. As of noon, Frame said about six people had participated in the service. A handful of appointments were scheduled for the afternoon.

Those wishing to sign up for the state’s medical cannabis program must provide a photo ID, proof of West Virginia residency and a patient certification form provided by a physician that verifies the patient’s need for medical cannabis.

State residents with income below 200% of the federal poverty level can also provide proof of income to qualify for a waiver offsetting the cost of the filing.

The Legislature passed the Medical Cannabis Act in April 2017. The Act legalized medical marijuana use for people with a “serious medical condition,” including cancer, HIV, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, post-traumatic stress disorder, “severe” chronic pain and certain terminal diseases, among other conditions.

Debbi Hanna, a 58-year-old Charleston resident who came to the registration event Monday, said she’s been waiting a long time for the opportunity to access medical cannabis.

“I’m trying to get off the pharmaceutical medications, the ones that are addictive, that aren’t any good, but I’m in constant, constant pain,” Hanna said. “I hope with (cannabis) I’ll be in less pain, and it will be safer in general.”

Hanna lives with some chronic health conditions that exacerbate her pain. This week, she’s scheduled for hip surgery and facing a long road to recovery. Though the medical dispensaries are not yet running, she looks forward to the day they are.

“It would be a big help, and I do think it’s safer. God made (marijuana) after all,” Hanna said. “I do, I really wish it were legal for everyone. It’s better than the alcohol, the other drugs, the other things people are using for their pain.”

More than 2,000 people have registered for the state’s medical cannabis program since the sign-up window opened in February. Patients will be served by 100 dispensaries across the state, which Frame said should be operational by this winter.

There are 10 growers and 10 processors licensed to harvest the marijuana, which will be sold in the dispensaries in various forms, including pills, creams, oils, vapors, plant and tinctures, among others.

Frame said plants are already in the ground and growing in preparation for a late-fall opening.

“We’re on the way there,” Frame said.

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