Recent sentiments from West Virginia’s leadership seems to show that the state may be ready to legalize recreational marijuana, albeit reluctantly, with officials like Gov. Jim Justice sounding like they’ve conceded to the fact that federal legalization is coming within the next few years. Nevertheless, Mountain State Republicans are nevertheless determined to make lemonade out of lemons out of the situation. The governor, who is known to be opposed to marijuana, said this month that he’d support a legalization bill that would tax “the absolute crap” out of recreational cannabis.
Justice said that “If in fact the entire nation is going to move that way, if our legislature from the standpoint of the Republicans in the House were to bring me that, and it would be tied to using those extra dollars [to] get rid of additional personal income tax, I would support it,”.
In line with this, A West Virginia House leader also recently did an internal poll among Republican lawmakers on the kind of marijuana legalization policies they’d support to raise state revenue as part of a plan to eliminate the personal income tax.
It’s undeniable that this is pretty much the same intent of the states that approved adult-use weed last year when the pandemic drained the funds of every state in the nation. Now that medical marijuana is already legal in the state and Democrats are already working on a federal legalization bill, there’s little reason for West Virginia lawmakers on both sides not to pass a legalization, or at least a decriminalization this year.
Overview of West Virginia Marijuana Laws
Medical marijuana was legalized in West Virginia after SB 386 was signed into law. However, patients were only able to register to the state’s medical marijuana program February this year. Meanwhile, recreational use and home cultivation of any kind remain illegal.
- Possession – Simple possession is a misdemeanor in West Virginia and any amount will get a punishment of a minimum of 90 days to 6 months jail time and a maximum fine of $1000. However, a first offense involving less than 15 grams gets a conditional discharge which is not a legal conviction.
- Sale/Distribution – Selling, distributing, or possession with intent to distribute marijuana is a felony in West Virginia.
- Any amount, or trafficking marijuana into the state – a mandatory minimum sentence of one up to 5 years and a maximum fine of $15,000.
- To a minor or within 1000 ft of a school – a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years.
- Cultivation – Penalties for growing marijuana in West Virginia are based on the aggregate weight of the plants found. The offense is punished either as simple possession or as possession with the intent to distribute.
History of Marijuana in West Virginia
Needless to say, marijuana reform had a difficult time gaining traction in conservative West Virginia for decades. Despite the introduction of SB 546 and HB 2909 as early as 2010 to 2015, it wasn’t until 2017 that medical marijuana was finally legalized under SB 386. The bill, however, only allowed the use of cannabis in the form of pills, oils, gels, creams, ointments, tinctures, liquid, and non-whole plant forms for vaping. It also did not allow patients to grow their own.
The law was amended though in the last two years. In 2019, SB 1037 eliminated all but the 10% dispensary receipts tax while HB 2538 gave the state’s medical marijuana industry less financial and banking restrictions and it was only last year that dry leaf or plant form was allowed after the approval of SB 339.
There are already a number of bills lined up for this year. Some of the more notable ones to watch out are SB 591 which brings down simple possession from a misdemeanor to a civil violation, HB 2060 which reduces the penalty for possession of small amounts or marijuana paraphernalia, and HB 2550 which seeks to give qualifying patients the right to grow up to 10 plants with up to five reaching maturity simultaneously.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of West Virginia
How does West Virginia’s marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about marijuana legalization in West Virginia
Adult-use cannabis is still illegal in West Virginia.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not yet allowed in West Virginia.
Medical marijuana has been made legal in West Virginia since 2017.
There are already several pro-marijuana bills lined up to be heard this year. Some of the notable ones are SB 591 which brings down simple possession from a misdemeanor to a civil violation, HB 2060 which reduces the penalty for possession of small amounts or marijuana paraphernalia, and HB 2550 which seeks to give qualifying patients the right to grow up to 10 plants with up to five reaching maturity simultaneously.
None yet since it is still illegal to cultivate cannabis for medical or recreational purposes in West Virginia.
Virginia residents are not yet allowed to cultivate marijuana at home.
Growing marijuana in West Virginia is still illegal for residents of all ages.
Given the openness of the state’s Republican governor to legalizing marijuana, it’s not far-fetched for an adult-use bill to get passed this year. However, based on how its medical marijuana law went from approval to implementation, sales of recreational marijuana may still be as far away as 2 to 3 years.