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How To Open A Dispensary In West Virginia (2024)

Overview

Are you thinking about how to open a dispensary in West Virginia? With the legalization of medical marijuana in the state, there has been a booming business for dispensaries. This guide provides entrepreneurs with essential information on opening a dispensary in West Virginia, highlighting potential opportunities and necessary regulations in the medical marijuana business.

On April 19, 2017, the state of West Virginia took a significant step and became the 29th state in the U.S. by legalizing medical marijuana through the signing of Senate Bill 386 by Governor Jim Justice. Changes to the law were made in subsequent years, particularly in 2019 and 2020.

This important law led to the creation of the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act, which set up a structured program for medical marijuana use in the state, allowing patients with serious medical conditions to access cannabis for treatment. 

In 2020, West Virginia approved the use of dry leaf or plant form as a legitimate form of medical cannabis through SB 339. The first dispensaries in West Virginia opened in 2021, marking the beginning of the medical cannabis market in the state. By 2023, there were 26,390 medical cannabis patients in West Virginia, indicating growth in both the number of licensed facilities and patients. With over 30 dispensaries now open, patients in West Virginia have improved access to medical cannabis, fulfilling the primary goal of the Medical Cannabis Act.

On January 17th, 2024, House Bill 4873 was introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates to legalize the production, sale, and adult recreational use of marijuana for individuals 21 years of age and older. The bill, following failed attempts in 2023, requires official permission and strict oversight for marijuana sales and makes it illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis. It introduces a 15% tax on marijuana sales and a 6% sales tax, with revenues supporting various public services and government salaries, distributed equally between county and city governments. The bill has been initially reviewed by the Health and Human Resources Committee and awaits further assessment by the Judiciary and Finance Committees.

The Opportunity Size

As of March 29th, 2024, the medical cannabis industry in West Virginia, as reported by the Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC), shows substantial growth and activity. The state has approved 32,581 patients for medical cannabis use, and sales have reached significant numbers, with 20,962 pounds and 2,421,025 units of cannabis products sold, generating a total revenue of $116,582,797. 

The medical cannabis industry is a significant source of employment in the area, supporting around 2,000 jobs through direct and indirect employment. Currently, there are 23,014 plants actively growing, reflecting the industry’s strong production capacity. Additionally, the OMC has received 42,927 patient applications, indicating a high demand for medical cannabis. The medical cannabis sector in West Virginia has a well-developed operational infrastructure, featuring 138 dispensaries and 22 growers. In addition to these, there are multiple processors and active telemedicine companies, illustrating the sector’s extensive development and capability to meet medical cannabis needs in the state.

Medical Cannabis in West Virginia

The Medical Cannabis Act in West Virginia regulates the cultivation, processing, and sale of medical cannabis, allowing only licensed businesses to handle products containing delta-9 THC derived from the marijuana plant. Medical cannabis products must be high-quality, lab-tested, and grown in secure, indoor facilities. 

Medical Cannabis License Types

  • Grower/Processor License: Allows for the cultivation of cannabis plants. To start and run these operations, businesses must follow strict guidelines to get their license. This includes ensuring their facilities are secure and that they produce high-quality cannabis products.
  • Laboratory License: Allows for the testing and analysis of cannabis products to ensure quality and compliance with regulations and to ensure they’re safe for patients to use. These laboratories must meet high standards to be certified, checking that cannabis is free from harmful substances and that it has the right ingredients to help patients.
  • Dispensary License: Permits the operation of outlets selling medical cannabis to patients. To open and operate a dispensary, the business must obtain a special license that ensures compliance with regulations concerning security, patient care, and product knowledge. Additionally, staff operating in dispensaries must be trained to offer safe, informative support for medical cannabis transactions.

The Medical Cannabis Program is carefully managed by the Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC), a dedicated agency responsible for overseeing how medical marijuana is used and distributed in West Virginia. Under the guidelines of this program, patients who have been diagnosed with certain serious health conditions are allowed to receive medical marijuana. These conditions are specifically listed to ensure that only those with genuine medical needs can access the treatment.

To know whether you are eligible to apply for a medical card, you may refer to the complete patient registration guide. Only West Virginia residents with a valid Medical Cannabis Patient or Caregiver Card can possess and carry medical cannabis, limited to a 30-day supply. However, they must obtain this medicine from dispensaries that have been officially licensed by the state. These licensed dispensaries are regulated to ensure they meet all the necessary standards for safely dispensing medical marijuana to patients.

Dispensaries in West Virginia have to pay a 10% tax on the money they earn from selling medical cannabis. This tax is based on their total sales, and they can’t lower the amount by subtracting any business costs. They need to pay this tax every three months using electronic methods. If a dispensary stops its business, it must immediately pay any taxes that are still due. The money collected from this tax is used for the Medical Cannabis Program Fund. This fund helps support state activities like drug abuse programs and law enforcement training. The way these taxes are managed and followed is outlined in the West Virginia Tax Procedure and Administration Act, which helps ensure that everything is done properly.

Medical Cannabis Permit Application Process

The Office of Medical Cannabis (OMC) in West Virginia has provided a comprehensive checklist for individuals and businesses applying for permits in the medical cannabis sector. This guide is crucial for applicants wishing to operate as growers, processors, or dispensaries.

Initial Registration and Account Management

  • Account Setup: Applicants must create an online account, providing their full name, email, phone number, and a strong password, and accept the website’s terms and conditions.
  • Email Confirmation: After registration, monitor the provided email for a confirmation link to proceed with the application.

Application Submission

  • Business Information: Input the business name, permit type (Dispensary, Grower, Processor), Federal EIN, trade name, contact details, website, email, and business structure.
  • Principal Information: List all principals, operators, financial backers, and employees, including full legal names, contact details, roles, and ownership percentages.

Compliance and Eligibility

  • Legal Compliance: Respond to questions affirming understanding of legal requirements, moral character, operational capacity, security measures, and local zoning laws.
  • Background Checks: Ensure all involved parties pass background checks for crimes that indicate a lack of moral character, such as drug-related crimes or crimes of violence.

Documentation Requirement

  • Necessary Documents: Submit organizational documents, tax clearance certificates, property agreements, site plans, detailed operation descriptions, and proof of identification.
  • Operational Plans: Provide a comprehensive plan including security, employee training, transportation, storage, labeling, inventory management, quality control, and waste management.

Finalizing Application

  • Review and Submission: Thoroughly review the application for completeness and accuracy before submission to ensure compliance with West Virginia Medical Cannabis regulations.

How much does it cost to open a dispensary in West Virginia?

The cost of opening a dispensary in West Virginia includes several types of fees. 

  • Initial application fee: $2,500 (nonrefundable).
  • Permit fee: $10,000 per location (annual, returned if not granted).
  • Renewal fee: $2,500 (covers all locations, returned if renewal is not granted).

Applications for renewal must be submitted 4 to 6 months before the permit expires. Fees are payable by certified check or money order.

For other types of cannabis business licenses in West Virginia, such as those for growers or processors, the financial requirements are different. 

Grower or Processor

  • Initial application fee: $5,000 (nonrefundable).
  • Permit fee: $50,000 (annual, returned if not granted).
  • Renewal fee: $5,000 (covers all locations, returned if renewal is not granted).
  • Applications for renewal must be submitted 4 to 6 months before the permit expires.
  • Fees are payable by certified check or money order.

General

  • A $250 fee is required for amendments like relocation or changes in approved activities.
  • All fees are deposited into a designated fund.

Current Status of Medical Cannabis Applications

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources stopped taking permit applications for medical cannabis growers, processors, and dispensaries on February 18, 2020. They will only accept applications for laboratories now, with no plans to reopen applications for growers, processors, or dispensaries. 

A Supreme Court decision affected the residency requirement for applicants. Previously, the state law required applicants to be residents of West Virginia, but this residency condition will no longer be enforced, allowing non-residents to apply for permits as well. Applicants are reminded to consider federal laws on medical cannabis, as state permit issuance does not guarantee federal law compliance. Information on approved dispensary permit holders is to be announced.

Local Cannabis Restrictions and Laws

The state limits the number of licenses, allowing up to 10 growers, 10 processors, and 100 dispensaries, with individuals restricted to one grower or processor permit and up to 10 dispensary permits. Medical cannabis in West Virginia is available in several forms, including pills, oils, topicals, vaporizable dry leaf, tinctures, liquids, and dermal patches, all of which must be packaged in child-resistant, tamper-evident, and opaque containers to prevent misuse and exposure to minors.

The consumption of medical cannabis is regulated; smoking is prohibited, and use is limited to private settings, mainly through vaporization. Transportation of medical cannabis between licensed facilities requires strict security measures, including GPS tracking and a detailed manifest, to prevent illegal distribution.

Opening a medical cannabis dispensary in West Virginia requires following specific regulations to ensure public safety and compliance with state laws. Dispensaries cannot be established near schools or playgrounds to safeguard children from exposure to the business. Applicants must consult with local authorities to identify legally compliant locations for their operations.

Recreational Cannabis in West Virginia

The discussion around legalizing recreational cannabis is evolving, with a significant proposal made in 2024. If HB 4873 is passed, it would legalize the recreational use of cannabis. The bill includes a proposal to tax these sales with a 15% state excise tax and a 6% local sales tax, which would support important state services.

The money collected from these taxes would help fund state employee pensions, programs for treating drug addiction, and local law enforcement efforts. This approach aims to use the potential income from cannabis sales to benefit the community and the state as a whole.

Currently, West Virginia allows cannabis for medical use, following a detailed process to establish this market. The journey from legalizing medical cannabis to potentially allowing recreational use shows the careful steps the state is taking to manage cannabis regulation.

The conversation about legalizing recreational cannabis in West Virginia reflects a broader national trend, where states are considering how to handle cannabis use and sales responsibly. This ongoing discussion highlights the importance of thoughtful regulation and the impact it can have on various aspects of society.

Conclusion

Starting a dispensary in West Virginia presents a unique opportunity within a rapidly growing industry. The state’s progressive approach to medical cannabis has nurtured a thriving market, though it requires strict compliance with state regulations and careful strategic planning. Successful dispensaries prioritize legal compliance and active community engagement, contributing to ongoing discussions about the responsible use of medical marijuana.

As West Virginia continues to refine its cannabis program, we are committed to keeping you updated on all relevant developments related to establishing a dispensary in the state. By subscribing to our West Virginia Cannabis Mailing List (below), you’ll receive timely updates and valuable insights, including:

 

– The latest news on the legalization of cannabis in West Virginia

– Updates on the availability of new cannabis license applications

– Information about special programs and initiatives

– And much more.

 

Simply provide your information below to gain access!

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