By Peggy Mackenzie
It’s been nearly three years since the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act was passed by Governor Jim Justice which allows for cannabis to be used for certified medical use by West Virginia residents with serious medical conditions. On Tuesday evening, the Greenbrier County Commission voted to approve to allow medical cannabis organizations to operate within Greenbrier County, contingent upon a public hearing at the planning commission to approve land use provisions in the comprehensive plan. As a further requirement, the commission will send letters to the HHR and the WV Health department confirming the county has approved the action.
This is by no means a recreational marijuana statute, it’s strictly medicinal. The medical cannabis industry is increasing in West Virginia and businesses are ready and willing to take on the lengthy and costly permit process. Vying statewide for one of ten processor and grower permits, and one of 100 permits to distribute, applicants will pay $2,500 per dispensary application and $5,000 per grower or processor application. Registration fees are $10,000 for each dispensary location and $50,000 for grower and processors.
The only types of medical cannabis allowed initially by the Bureau for Public Health are pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquid, and non-whole plant forms for administration through vaporization. Dispensaries cannot sell edibles, but medical cannabis products could be mixed into food or drinks by patients themselves. Vaporization (or oils) is allowed, but smoking is prohibited. Patients may only obtain a 30-day supply of cannabis at a time.
Two applicants were present at the commission meeting; Kristee Montgomery, an owner of Appalachian Cannabis, stated she was looking to relocate her company’s growing, processing and distribution of medical marijuana to Greenbrier County, and Jennifer Keadle-Mason, an attorney representing other hemp and medical cannabis clients interested in applying for permits to operate in Greenbrier County. They were both anxious to get the county’s approval before the deadline of the permit application period which will end on Feb. 18, 2020 at 3 p.m. EST. After Feb. 18, no additional applications will be accepted. DHHR advised once the permit process is complete it could take as many as six months or longer for medical cannabis companies to start operating in West Virginia.
The commission, as a group, was receptive to the Medical Cannabis Act. “We must move forward in support of this opportunity as an economic driver,” said Commissioner Tammy Shifflett-Tincher. The inclusion of stringent restrictions and controls with the passage of the state law assured Tincher of the limits of what cannabis businesses could or could not do. Though not enthusiastic of recreational cannabis usage, Commissioner Lowell Rose agreed, provided problems of security concerns are addressed by growers and processors. He said landowners can grow whatever they want within the county, but dispensary sites will be left up to individual municipalities as to whether or not to allow.
Commissioner Mike McClung inquired about the potential for new employment opportunities. Montgomery said her company allows full time, year-round employment. She said she currently employs 50 people, 80 percent of which are veterans. The company will hire and train processor and dispensary personnel, employ others with grower experience and require transportation employment needs. Appalachian Cannabis, which operates statewide, is already a hemp distributor with three distribution locations; Charleston, Cross Lanes and Morgantown. The company is now taking part in the medical cannabis permit application process, and Montgomery said, if they can meet the time squeeze to find appropriate properties to purchase, they are hoping to become a grower, processor and distributor in Greenbrier County.
In other business:
- County Clerk Robin Loudermilk requested the commission approve to hire Meredith Whited, an in-house transfer from another department to the clerk’s office in a full time position.
- Sheriff Bruce Sloan introduced the county’s newest canine, Thelma, a black Labrador two-year-old pup, along with her trainer Sgt. Smith, who personally paid for her training and purchase.
- The commission approved the annexation of the 6.332 acre James Johnson property to the city of Ronceverte.