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 PRINCETON — Medical cannabis dispensaries may soon be given the green light to finally open in West Virginia, and two companies have applied for permits in Mercer County.

In October, the state Office on Medical Cannabis approved 10 companies for growing marijuana and in November approved 10 as processors, the initial limit of permits the state set for both of those types of business.

The list has not yet been released of the 100 dispensaries that will be allowed to open in the state. However, according to various reports, that should happen this spring.

One company that has already been approved as a grower and processor in Beaver in Raleigh County is Holistic WV Farms LLC, a Washington, D.C. based company that has also requested a permit to open a dispensary in Mercer County. The company already operates many medical cannabis businesses in seven states and D.C.

The other company that has applied for a permit to operate a dispensary in Mercer County is Princeton WV Retail LLC, listed on the state site as DBA (Doing Business As) Terrasana.

The application fee for a dispensary permit is $10,000 and $50,000 for a grower or processor permit.

Neither company could be reached for comment on their plans if they are included on the list of 100 approved dispensaries to operate in the state.

The Mercer County Board of Health last month reversed an earlier decision that did not allow the businesses to locate in the county after hearing from the City of Bluefield on the advantages of the dispensaries as well as former Del. John Shott, who was instrumental in changing the 2017 original bill that allowed the product in the state to make it more acceptable and appropriate.

As a result of Shott’s effort, medical cannabis requires a highly regulated procedure from how it is grown, processed and sold, and it is tracked very step of the way. Anyone who uses the product must have a doctor’s prescription, just like any medication that is regulated.

“It’s not a perfect bill,” Shott told board members. “But we looked at all the other states that have it and incorporated the best provisions and the most accountability to the bill.”

Shott said the bill ended up being a “really good product” and there are people he knows who could benefit from it, pointing to a testimonial on the House floor by a delegate related to using medical cannabis as a cancer treatment and how it helped.

He also expressed concern that if not available in Mercer County people who need it would be forced to drive to another county to obtain it.

“Have we really accomplished anything positive if we don’t allow them access to the product under supervision?” he asked the board, adding that the medication is through a doctor’s care and any physician who prescribes it must first be trained in its proper usage.

Legalization of medical marijuana has been spreading in states around the country as support has grown, often citing varied studies done that show benefits for those who have many issues, including cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and PTSD.

Board members had already heard from officials from Bluefield who spoke at another board meeting. They requested the change to allow the businesses to locate here after being approached by one of the companies that requested to locate a dispensary in the city.

Jim Spencer, director of community and economic development for Bluefield, told board members the health benefits are substantial and he would support the dispensaries for that reason alone.

The dispensaries create jobs, bring in tax revenue and provide a medical need, he said, pointing how the county is seeing a dire economic situation, and if local residents can’t get it here, they will travel to another county where the dispensaries are located.

During the December meeting when the board approved the dispensaries, Board Chair Dr. Randy Maxwell called Jason Frame, the state director of the medical cannabis program, to participate in the discussion.

Frame clarified some points, including state oversight of the industry, from growing the product to dispensing it, reviewing strict guidelines.

Twenty-two other counties have already granted permission for the businesses in the state, he said, and one other has not yet made a decision. Statewide, 31 counties have not yet had any requests for locating a medical cannabis related business so have not had a need to make a decision.

Rules include more than 30 testing parameters for safety and content, he said, and all of it is traced from its source to dispensing.

Frame also said the decision to approve the businesses for the county is up to the board of health. The county commission could only reject the decision by holding a referendum to allow voters to decide.

Medical cannabis is now legal in 35 states.

According to the state Office of Medical Cannabis, the Act also provides for funding for research institutions to study the impact of medical cannabis on the treatment and symptom management of serious medical conditions. The advisory committee will review these research findings and make recommendations to the legislature for changes to the Act.

It also provides revenue to the Fight Substance Abuse Fund; the Division of Justice and Community Services, grants to local law enforcement agencies for training, drug diversion, and other programs focused on crime and addiction; and a fund to be used for law enforcement professional training and professional development programs.

The office’s website lists criteria patients must meet to obtain a prescription:

• At least 18 years of age. If under the age of 18, patients must have an authorized caregiver.

• Be diagnosed with one or more Qualifying Condition(s).

• Register with the Office.

• Obtain a physician’s certification and apply for a Medical Cannabis Identification Card and pay the application fee.

After these are met, patients will then be able to obtain medical cannabis at a licensed dispensary.

 — Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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