The application window for businesses trying to break into the state’s nascent medical marijuana industry opens next month.
Come Dec. 19, those seeking permits to operate as marijuana growers, processors, distributors or laboratories in West Virginia can apply (and submit the nonrefundable application fees) to the Office of Medical Cannabis.
The bid window will stay open for 60 days before state officials award the permits.
“This is a key step in the process to make medical cannabis available to West Virginians with serious medical conditions,” said Jason Frame, director of the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis in a news release Tuesday. “We and many others continue to work toward a goal of providing eligible West Virginia residents the ability to procure quality-tested medical cannabis.”
The announcement marks a major, though belated, stride forward for a program intended to have begun in July by lawmakers who created it more than two years ago.
In an interview this summer, Frame said he’s aiming for patients to be able to access medical marijuana before the summer of 2021. For years, state officials and lawmakers struggled to find a home for program funds when the state treasurer’s banking vendors said they wouldn’t process marijuana funds, given the conflict with federal law.
Lawmakers passed a workaround earlier this year, enabling credit unions to step in. Treasurer John Perdue recently awarded a banking contract for the program to Element Federal Credit Union, in South Charleston.
While anyone can apply for and obtain the permit, the capital-intensive industry is likely to tilt toward larger companies. A vertically integrated business — meaning one that operates as a grower, processor and distributor — will need to keep $4.1 million banked at any given time to comply with state regulations.
This comes on top of the $50,000 cost of a growing permit, $50,000 cost of a processing permit and $10,000 cost for each dispensary permit (a business can obtain up to 10). Then come the actual costs of building out a business.