MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When district officials in Monongalia district rejected additional regulations for medical cannabis dispensaries from the district’s health department last week, it was the first practical test of the newly passed Senate Law 12.
SB 12 gives elected members of city councils and district commissions and other local government units more control over policies, rules and regulations issued by the district’s local health authorities. During this year’s regular legislature, lawmakers said the bill would allow more local input on potentially controversial issues.
All three Monongalia County commissioners wrote letters against the law while lawmakers debated it on the premise that they wanted to question doctors or scientists.
The health department could challenge the decision in court. The next meeting is planned for next month.
Jennifer Piercy, executive director of the County Commissioners ‘Association of West Virginia, said she had heard similar concerns from other commissioners about medical professionals’ doubts.
“When Senate Bill 12 was passed during the 2021 legislature, many questions arose,” Piercy said. “Especially from commissioners and district administrators about how this would work and whether there was a process or a procedure.”
The Monongalia County commissioners declined Regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries that they said go beyond the Medical Cannabis Act, which was passed in 2017 and amended by lawmakers earlier this year. The commissioners unanimously opposed the regulations, saying they are stricter than state laws and that the local board does not have the authority.
In addition, the Commission will produce a document detailing each step in the process of evaluating the rules and the reasons for their rejection. The document is read into the minutes and signed by the commissioners.
“It was really beneficial for us to watch this whole process,” Piercy said. “Because our group has been working with commissioners and administrators to create some kind of structure for how we can take care of it – some kind of guide.”
After the ordinances were passed by the health department at the end of May, the commission and the district health council held a two-hour working session. The commissioners then checked the facts of the pharmacies in other states and sought advice from their legal counsel.
According to Piercy, the process seemed very orderly and seemed to involve anyone who wanted to be included.
“You had the opportunity to speak publicly, and you also had the opportunity for the commissioners to take their time, seek legal advice and really assess the situation,” Piercy said. “I think this is a great first step for us.”
Piercy said there could be much more complex possibilities in the future.
“We have the Mid-Ohio Valley Department of Health – there are multiple counties so you may have a situation where a rule is passed, but you can have different entities that may or may not pass or approve those rules,” said you.
Due to the lack of guidance or precedent, the action taken in Morgantown will be a case study for the application of the new law, she said.
“It’s great because it’s a starting point, it’s got a good structure,” Piercy said. “We will be able to use that in the future because I have the feeling that it was very hard-working.”
Along with Piercy, all three Monongalia County commissioners said health officials and elected leaders across the state are watching the process play out in Morgantown.