MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Monongalia County Commission could decide this week whether it will approve additional regulations on medical marijuana dispensaries from the Monongalia County Board of Health.
The state Medical Cannabis Office has okayed 14 dispensaries in Monongalia County. The state has a number regulations on where the dispensaries can be located. The health board has added several regulations.
Health Board Chairman Sam Chico told county commissioners during a work session last week, the regulations approved by the board are designed to protect the safety of the community.
State regulations require dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from any school or daycare facility. The health board has added libraries and parks to the 1,000 foot list, while dictating dispensaries must be stand-alone and not be allowed in a strip mall. The regulations also include strict storage security for guidelines and other local legal requirements that are over and above the state law passed in 2017 and amended in the most recent legislative session.
Chico said the additional regulations are not based on economics.
“We’re probably the only people in this room that have no economic interest in this,” Chico said. “We don’t make a penny and we don’t lose a penny whether this comes or goes, whether the ordinance is here- we are unaffected by economics in our decision.”
Chico also operates Chico Enterprises, Inc., a company that operates convenience stores and other retail locations in the Morgantown area. Chico said the regulations are establish out of an abundance of caution and safety.
“I can assure you, after some period of time you’re going to put in these rules,” Chico said. “We can wait until people get harmed and we can retrofit these places or we can be proactive.”
Chico said the dispensaries would be the target of professional criminals.
“I’m talking organized crime, I’m talking “Oceans Eleven” type crime, I’m talking about gang violence,” Chico said. “I’m talking about semi-automatic weapons in overwhelming force coming into these places and scaring people to death or killing them.”
County Commissioner Tom Bloom questioned the consistency of the boards rules and regulations.
“I never heard the board of health come out at any time with the 43 bars that are downtown and the problems that are there locally,” Bloom said.
A new state law mandates new rules from health departments be approved by county commissions or other elected bodies before going into effect.
Chico said there are still some questions about the law.
“Being that you have a legal opinion that says we don’t have this authority, I can tell you we have a legal opinion that says we do,” Chico told commissioners. “So, it will maybe take a challenge of a judge, but that would be counter to everything we’ve done in our entire existence. We pass regulations and we regulate commerce- that’s what we do.”
The proposed regulations are expected to be part or the county commission’s agenda for its Wednesday morning meeting.