FAIRMONT — With two medical marijuana dispensaries now open in West Virginia, Marion County officials welcome them here with open arms.
With the recent opening of West Virginia’s first medical marijuana dispensary just up the interstate in Morgantown, it’s only a matter of time before Marion County sees its first location.
Lloyd White, administrator of the Marion County Health Department, said that he’s approved around 10 permits for dispensaries to open in the county, but doesn’t have information about when the first shop will start operations.
“The extent of any medical marijuana coming into the county has to be approved by us, we looked at the parameters and did a blanket approval for all 10 dispensaries,” White said. “We haven’t been given any information about when someone may be opening up. It’s a slow, cumbersome process for those setting up.”
The dispensaries are no strangers to slow processes. The West Virginia legislature legalized medical marijuana in 2017 and it has taken four years for the product to finally be sold.
Del. Joey Garcia, D-Fairmont, said the process is very difficult to muddle through, with a lot of red tape blocking the way.
“It’s sad it’s taken this long to be implemented, there’s been a lot of bureaucracy that’s stood in its way,” Garcia said. “I’m happy to see the… Morgantown stores have opened and I’m hopeful to see that we have the same opportunity locally here in Marion County.”
Garcia understands how these businesses operate, citing their attention to details and safety. As he sees it, dispensaries will provide both medical benefits and economic benefits to the county.
“These are legitimate businesses, they take the safety and health care aspects very seriously,” Garcia said. “I think these are going to be businesses that are going to contribute to the local economy… and I think they intend to be part of the community in Marion County.”
As far as the economic benefits go, Marion County Commissioner Randy Elliot is on board with seeing this new industry flourish on both a state and local level.
Earlier in the year, it was reported that over 2,000 West Virginia residents signed up for a medical marijuana card and Elliot is excited to see the Marion County in the mix.
“Economically, it’ll provide jobs, the taxes it will bring in will certainly be welcome, but most importantly it’ll help people get relief from what’s bothering them,” Elliot said. “If it works and we have it in the state, why not in Marion County too?”
Garcia pointed out that cannabis can be used to treat many of the ailments that are treated by opiates, acting as a substitute for the often-addictive class of drugs.
Just this week, federal data showed the number of yearly overdose deaths in the U.S. topped 100,000, with West Virginia having one of the largest increases.
Out of the 100,000 deaths, more than 1,600 West Virginians died in the last year.
“For so long, [opioids] were the only way… that those in hard-working industries could treat pain from their jobs,” Garcia said. “I think giving an alternative is one way to stop the addiction and stop the overdoses.”
White agreed and said the health benefits are well researched and well known.
“The real goal is getting some of our citizens some relief that they need without a dependency on legal or illegal drugs,” White said. “We have a lot of people suffering from chronic pain… until you experience that pain yourself, it’s hard to understand. Anything that will help folks get some relief from pain to where they can enjoy life, we should be trying to do that.”