The burgeoning industries of industrial hemp and medical cannabis are highly regulated ventures featuring a multitude of complex and evolving local, state and federal laws. Most states allow for the cultivation of hemp, and nearly as many have passed laws that broadly legalize the medical use of cannabis in some form. The state of West Virginia has enacted legislation on both fronts, making it possible for individuals and businesses to participate as a grower, harvester, processor and/or distributor. While this presents great opportunity for the Mountain State, strict requirements and regulations apply.
Bowles Rice counsels individuals and businesses who are interested in exploring or growing a business in the industrial hemp and/or medical cannabis industries. As a full-service firm offering capabilities in a wide variety of practice areas, Bowles Rice also has vast experience advising clients in similarly regulated products and industries, such as alcohol, hospitality and gaming, banking and finance, health care and energy. The totality of our work makes us uniquely qualified to assist those seeking to navigate these evolving areas of state and federal law. Specifically, our attorneys can assist with the following:
- Regulatory and Compliance Issues
- Permits, Licensing, Sales, Storage and Record Keeping
- Business and Corporate
- Business Planning and Entity Formation
- Commercial agreements
- Business disputes and litigation
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Shareholder agreements
- Banking & Financial Services
- Purchase / sale of business
- Venture capital and financing arrangements
- Federal banking regulations
- Debtor/creditors’ rights
- Labor and Employment Issues
- Health Care Regulations
- Real Estate, Land Use and Zoning Issues
- Tax Issues
- Surcharges and taxes associated with state laws
- Contract Preparation
- Licensure Applications
- Intellectual Property
- Government Relations
Brief summaries of the related state laws are listed below. Bowles Rice attorneys are well positioned to help clients interpret and accordingly comply with the laws in this heavily regulated product environment.
Industrial Hemp Development Act
In 2002, the West Virginia Legislature approved Senate Bill 447, recognizing industrial hemp having no more than one percent THC as an "agricultural crop." This legislation also established licensing procedures to allow local farmers to "plant, grow, harvest, possess, process [and] sell" hemp commercially. However, the Act was largely inactive until Congress passed a federal farm bill in 2014 giving states the go ahead to officially begin programs for industrial hemp. The recent passage of the 2018 federal farm bill, and corresponding update of West Virginia’s Industrial Hemp Development Act, has opened the potential for this relatively new agricultural market even further.
West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act
In 2017, state lawmakers approved West Virginia Senate Bill 386 allowing for cannabis to be administered for certified medical use by a West Virginia resident with a serious medical condition. The Act strictly limits the use by approved patients to specific forms of cannabis, including pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures and liquids; it does not allow for the private growing or smoking of marijuana for recreational use. Only licensed, regulated dispensaries can issue cannabis products, and those products can only be issued in the approved forms. Legislation passed in 2019 further facilitates the implementation of West Virginia’s medical cannabis program, and permitting for interested growers, processors and dispensaries is expected to take place over the course of the next year.
DISCLAIMER: Marijuana is an illegal Class I drug pursuant to United States federal law. As legal counsel, Bowles Rice may counsel or assist clients regarding conduct expressly permitted under West Virginia Senate Bill 386. However, all activities related to marijuana are currently illegal under the federal laws of the United States and nothing contained on this website is intended to assist in any way with violation of applicable federal or state law.
Presentations & Events
- Presentation: 2017 West Virginia Legislative Update for the HR Professional: Drug Testing & Medical Marijuana by J. Tyler MayhewEastern Panhandle Society for Human Resource Management (EPSHRM)November 2017
Articles & Alerts
- Making Sense of the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act by Richie HeathWest Virginia Farm Bureau News, August 2018
- The Community Banker, Quarter 2 | 2018
Views & Visions
- State of Affairs, May 14, 2019
- State of Affairs, April 5, 2019
- Labor and Employment Pains: Navigating the Relationship Between West Virginia's Safer Workplace Act and Medical Cannabis ActWest Virginia Health Care Law, March 29, 2019
- State of Affairs, March 28, 2019
- West Virginia Health Care Law, March 15, 2019