New cannabis dispensary regulations concern local officials

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Mon County officials are concerned about additions to dispensary requirements by health department officials that are above provisions in the Medical Cannabis Act passed in 2017. The changes have the potential to delay or prevent some of the 21 permit applications from being approved.

State regulations require dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from any school or daycare facility.

Guidance from the Mon County Health Department adds libraries and parks to the 1,000 foot list, while dictating dispensaries must be stand-alone or not in a strip mall.

During a public meeting, commissioner Tom Bloom said one of the parties seeking a permit either wrote the new regulations or significantly contributed to them giving them an unfair advantage in the process.

“I am requesting that the board of health pass all 21 applications before the first week of November,” Bloom said,” And let the state Office of Medical Cannabis make the mandatory and required decisions on permits.”

Mon County Delegate Evan Hansen raised concerns about adding a requirement to have a medical professional on-site.

“That was already debated at the state level and the legislature decided to remove that requirement and the local board of health does not have the power to reinsert it,” Hansen said.

Commissioner Sean Sikora noted during the meeting that the Office of Medical Cannabis has delegated permit application approval to local health departments without providing clear guidance.

The proposed additions to the regulations were reportedly made after most applications had been submitted.

According to Delegate Hansen, failure to approve the applications would prevent a local source for cannabis patients from being established and have a negative economic impact to the economy.

“There are many businesses and entrepreneurs that have invested money to come to Mon County with the expectation that those permits would be approved,” Hansen said,”If those permits are not approved they will have lost those investments.”

Chief executive officer, founder and co-owner of Glenmark Holding Limited Liability Company, Mark Nesselroad contends the board of health does not have the jurisdiction to add the distance requirements.

“It does amount to zoning and land use regulations, the board of health was not given that authority under state code,” Nesselroad said,”In fact, state code delegates that authority to municipalities which would include counties and cities and those counties and cities have already had zoning discussions.”

“There aren’t protestors outside not wanting medical cannabis,” Nesselroad said,”In fact there’s, I don’t know how many of the 105,000 residents, but I would say the majority of them versus the five board members throwing up an obstacle.”