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Clock ticking as board of health considers cannabis dispensary regulations

MORGANTOWN — What is the status of 21 medical cannabis dispensary applications in Monongalia County?

When would the Monongalia County Health Department need to sign off on said applications in order for the parties involved to be considered by the state?

Why is the county board of health considering regulations beyond what has been laid out by the state for dispensaries and were these regulations written, at least in part, by a representative of one of the applicants?

These were among the questions asked of the MCHD on Thursday following a special board of health  meeting that, outside of a public comment portion, was held  in executive session and resulted in no action.

The Dominion Post requested and received an invitation to the remote meeting, but was never added due to technical difficulties, according to representatives of the health department.

The MCHD did not respond when asked why the meeting was held in executive session.

In response to the questions above, MCHD Public Information Officer Mary Wade Burnside said County Health Officer Lee Smith is on vacation, but was able to provide the following.

“I believe that all board of health members are working diligently to have a successful outcome to this important process. I will keep you abreast as developments occur.”

Of the 35 counties to receive dispensary applications, Monongalia County is one of two, along with Cabell, that has yet to get the needed green light from its health department. One county, Mercer, opted out. 

Many health departments gave blanket approvals with the understanding the state will ultimately decide where it places the 100 dispensaries.

Monongalia County Commissioner Sean Sikora said this issue is  about the state providing little to no guidance regarding dispensaries and the board of health doing its due diligence.

“They take the health of the county seriously and they’re creating an ordinance that they want to pass that is going to govern how these businesses operate in this county. I’d like to see that play out,” Sikora said. “I’m assured by the health department that they’re going to put their ordinance in place, they’re going to dispense with these applications in accordance with that ordinance and they’re going to meet the deadline that the state has put forward.”

While nobody seems to have a definite date, Commissioner Tom Bloom said it looks like the first week of November is going to be the cutoff to get the applications to Charleston.

“I can tell you that they’ve had the applications since November and we’ve been waiting to hear —  and I understand COVID — but there’s been a timeline,” Bloom said.

Bloom also said he believes the regulations being considered supersede the state statute by further restricting where dispensaries can be located and regulating everything down to the number of dedicated parking spaces.

“Personally, I would like to see the applications approved. Let the state make the decision, then the commission work legally with the health department to address their concerns,” Bloom said. “It’s their decision, but they need to make a decision.”

Bloom said he’s requested a letter to the MCHD be brought up for consideration at Wednesday’s commission meeting.