Committee adopts MCAB recommendations

February 20, 2019

CHARLESTON — Rehashing a bill the full House of Delegates passed last year, the House Health and Human Resources Committee on Tuesday passed a bill to adopt recommendations from the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to improve the West Virginia medical marijuana program.

Last year, the advisory board recommended permitting vertical integration, which would allow one company to be both a grower and a distributor, for example. This council felt this would make it more cost-effective for businesses to start in the state and sell the product to patients at a reasonable price.

The council also recommended raising the limits on growers, distributors and processors.

The committee adopted a strike-and-insert amendment, increasing the limit on growers and processors to no more than 50 and the number of distributors to no more than 165. The bill also permits vertical integration.

The House passed the bill to adopt the recommendations last year and the Senate passed an amended version, but despite a final push as the clock neared midnight on the final day of the 2018 session, the bill was never concurred by the House.

The bill is second referenced to Judiciary, but Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, asked for the bill to bypass the second committee because it had already passed the House last year. Committee chairman Del. Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, said he would ask Judiciary chairman Del. John Shott, R-Mercer, to let the bill go to the House floor.

The Legislature still needs to pass a banking fix for the medical marijuana program for it to move forward. The program is supposed to begin July 1, but it likely won’t be ready to go.

The committee Tuesday also passed a bill aimed at allowing more physicians to prescribe medication-assisted treatment.

The bill would exempt doctors with 30 or fewer patients from some of the licensing requirements to prescribe MAT. Doctors would still require those who provide MAT to also provide counseling services and drug screenings, and attest to the Department of Health and Human Resources they are prescribing MAT.

Echoing what he said in the committee on the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell, said the bill is a response to doctors in rural communities telling him they want to treat their patients for substance use disorder but they can’t comply with all the regulations.

Pushkin and Del. Margaret Staggers, D-Fayette, also spoke in favor of the bill, saying it made sense to try and provide more treatment to patients in their hometowns and by their family doctors.

The committee also passed a DHHR rules package comprised of Senate bills.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.