HUNTINGTON — The West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis is encouraging eligible West Virginians with serious medical conditions to register online for a medical cannabis patient card.
A list of physicians registered to certify patients as eligible for the use of medical cannabis is also available on the website, www.medcanwv.org. Though the registered physician will certify that the patient is eligible, the patient must apply for a patient identification card on the website. Patients need a photo ID and proof of West Virginia residency.
There is a $50 registration fee. The fee can be waived for those below 200% of the federal poverty line.
The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Act permits West Virginia residents with serious medical conditions to procure medical cannabis for certified medical use in the following forms: pill; oil; topical forms including gels, creams or ointments; a form medically appropriate for administration by vaporization or nebulization; dry leaf or plant form; tincture; liquid; or dermal patch.
There are three physicians in Cabell County and three in Kanawha County registered to certify patients, according to the list from the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
Dr. Michael Spindel, a Huntington plastic surgeon, is among those certified. He said he’s had oncologists and pain management specialists refer patients to him for certification. He said he decided to get certified after several patients mentioned it to him.
“I will tell you that the vast majority of patients — not all, but the vast majority — have already tried using products,” Spindel said. “However they get them. Some go to other states and get it. But they’ve tried and when I say, ‘Did this work?’ the answer, uniformly, is yes, and fairly enthusiastically yes. And it’s not just young people. I see a lot of patients. The top three reasons for treatment are some form of post-traumatic stress disorder which is already treated, neuropsy and chronic pain. We see a lot of patients with multiple back surgeries, some cancer patients … We are providing a service I think is needed.”
Physicians interested in obtaining authorization to certify medical cannabis patients must complete an approved four-hour course along with the registration application.
Spindel said it is a fairly cumbersome process, which he completed over several weeks. But he said it’s nothing someone who wants to certify patients couldn’t complete.
Physicians do not prescribe cannabis products as they do pain medication, for example. They may advise their patients on best use, but West Virginia physicians only certify a patient has one of the approved medical conditions.
Spindel said the course focuses on how cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, including how the product cannot cross state lines. This is part of the delay in implementation of the program because the product cannot be imported into the state. Patient cards will only be valid in West Virginia.
“There are many West Virginians who are experiencing chronic pain due to a serious medical condition,” said Dr. Ayne Amjad, state health officer and commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health. “Registering for a medical cannabis card through the web portal will ensure these patients will have access to medical cannabis at the time products are available, which is anticipated by fall 2021.”
Registration does not mean cannabis products will be immediately available.
Reporter Taylor Stuck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.