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West Virginia medical cannabis program.

On April 9. 2017, Governor Jim Justice signed into law Senate Bill 386, the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act. The Act authorizes, under limited conditions, the use, possession, growing, processing and dispensing of cannabis for the treatment of 15 serious medical conditions. The medical cannabis program will be administered by an Office of Medical Cannabis within the Bureau for Public Health.

According to the law, to be prescribed medical cannabis a patient must have one of the following "serious medical conditions":

* Cancer

* Positive status for human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome

* Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

* Parkinson's disease

* Multiple sclerosis

* Damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity

* Epilepsy

* Neuropathies

* Huntington's disease

* Crohn's disease

* Post-traumatic stress disorder

* Intractable seizures

* Sickle cell anemia

* Severe chronic or intractable pain of neuropathic origin or severe chronic or intractable pain in which conventional therapeutic intervention and opiate therapy is contraindicated or has proved ineffective as determined as part of continuing care

* Terminal illness which is defined as a medical prognosis of life expectancy of approximately one year or less if the illness runs its normal course

In order to participate in the Medical Cannabis Program, physicians must apply to the Bureau to be registered with the program; demonstrate to the Bureau, by training or expertise, that he/she is qualified in treating serious medical conditions; successfully complete the required four-hour course established by the Bureau; and hold a valid, unexpired, unrevoked, unsuspended West Virginia license to practice medicine.

The Bureau is developing the process for physicians to register with the Medical Cannabis Program, including making applications available on its website, and will announce the availability once this process is in place. Additionally, the Bureau is developing a four-hour physician training course regarding the scientific research on medical cannabis, including the risks and benefits of using medical cannabis and other information deemed necessary. A publicly accessible electronic database that includes a list of physicians registered with the program will be established and maintained.

To advise the Office of Medical Cannabis, a Medical Cannabis Advisory Board is established that includes the following members:

* Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health or a designee who shall also serve as the Chair;

* Superintendent of the West Virginia State Police or a designee;

* Four physicians licensed to practice in the state to be appointed by the State Medical Association with one from each of the following specialized medicine:

** Family Practice/Neurologist/General Practitioner

** Pain Management

** Oncologist/Palliative Care

** Psychiatrist

* A pharmacist licensed to practice in the state, to be designated by the Board of Pharmacy;

* A pharmacologist who has experience in the science of cannabis and a knowledge of the uses, effects, and modes of actions of drugs, to be appointed by the Governor;

* A horticulturalist, to be designated by the West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture;

* A person designated by the West Virginia Association of Alcoholism and Drug Counselors;

* An attorney licensed in the state who is knowledgeable about medical cannabis laws;

* A prosecuting attorney appointed by the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute; and

* A person appointed by the Governor, who shall be a patient, a family or household member of a patient or a patient advocate.

Under the Act, medical cannabis may only be prescribed in the form(s) of a pill; oil; tincture; liquid; dermal patch; topical including gels, creams or ointments; and a form medically appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization, excluding dry leaf or plant form.

To participate in the Medical Cannabis Program, patients must obtain a physician's certification that they suffer from one of the 15 serious medical conditions. With this certification, patients may then apply for a medical cannabis identification card. After receiving an identification card, a patient can obtain medical cannabis from a Bureau-approved dispensary.

The Bureau is currently working to develop the process to obtain a medical cannabis identification card and will make it as easy as possible for patients to apply for a medical cannabis identification, including making applications available on its website. Patients under the age of 18 with a serious medical condition may obtain medical cannabis through a caregiver. However, the Bureau may not issue the patient and caregiver identification cards necessary to obtain medical cannabis until July 1, 2019.

The Bureau is authorized to issue 30 dispensary permits across the state, with no more than five in any of the regions established by the Bureau. Additionally, the Bureau can issue permits for no more than 10 growers and 10 processors. A grower or a processor may not also be a dispensary.

The Bureau is in the early stages of the development of the program and is currently in the process of drafting the rules needed for implementation. Rules will explain the program's operation, including how applications are to be submitted by growers/processors, dispensaries, patients and caregivers, and physicians. Application for growers, processors and dispensaries are expected to be released during the first quarter of 2018, with full implementation expected by early 2019.

Rahul Gupta, MD, MPH, FACP Commissioner and State Health Officer

Brian Skinner General Counsel

West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health
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Title Annotation:West Virginia Bureau for Public Health / NEWS
Publication:West Virginia Medical Journal
Geographic Code:1U5WV
Date:Jul 1, 2017
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