Applying For A West Virginia Cannabis License? What You Need To Know!
Despite West Virginia Senate Bill 386, being signed into law on April 19, 2017, the application period wasn’t opened until last December. With a little over a month to submit applications for a West Virginia cannabis license, here is the information you need to know before applying (plus some tips and tricks on how to win!).

To learn more, watch our recent webinar on the emerging West Virginia market by clicking here.

What is the West Virginia cannabis license application deadline?

The deadline is 3:00 PM ET, Tuesday, February 18, 2020.
 
Applications will need to be submitted via an online portal. Due to the finicky nature of online portals in general, you should not wait until February 18 to submit your application. Portals can be slow to upload; they can time out or have errors. Some portals even require you to finish the application in its entirety and will not allow you to upload your application in phases.
 
The best advice is to submit at least two to three days before the deadline. Make sure you have everything you need when you sit down to finish your application. Ensure you have eliminated distractions so you can complete the application process in one sitting.

How many cannabis licenses are being issued?

West Virginia is limiting the number of licenses. This can be quite beneficial. States like Oregon, for example, with little to no licensing limits, are often plagued with supply and demand issues. Operators are producing more marijuana than can consumers need, causing prices to plummet and profits to sink.
 
West Virginia is issuing a few different types of permits. The state is allowing for vertical integration, so applicants may apply for one, two, or all the different types.
 
  • 10 licenses will be awarded to cultivators, those who intend to grow marijuana
  • 10 licenses will be awarded to processors, who take the plant and process it into other forms such as oils, pills, tinctures, topicals, etc
  • 100 dispensary licenses will be awarded to applicants who wish to sell cannabis products
Growers and processors are limited to one license per entity, while dispensaries are limited to 10 licenses per entity. Application fees are not reduced when submitting more than one application.

What types of medical cannabis will be allowed in West Virginia?

West Virginia will allow pills, oils, topicals, tinctures, vaporizing, liquids, etc. However, dried flower products will not be allowed to be sold to consumers. This can change, as we’ve seen in states like Pennsylvania and Florida, who have both amended their offerings to include smokable flower after legal cannabis sales began.

What is the application fee?

The initial application fee can run anywhere from $2,500 up to $50,000.

What will need to be included in my West Virginia cannabis license application?

Applications vary greatly from state to state, but in West Virginia, these are the categories considered for scoring:

  1. Description of duties
  2. Organizational experience
  3. Proposed plan of operation:
    1. Security
    2. Employee qualifications and training
    3. Transportation of medical cannabis
    4. Storage of medical cannabis
    5. Labeling of medical cannabis
    6. Inventory management
    7. Nutrient practices (for cultivators only)
    8. Quality control and testing of medical cannabis for potential contamination (for cultivators and processors only)
    9. Record keeping
    10. Preventing unlawful diversion of medical cannabis
    11. Policies and procedures for cultivation of medical cannabis (for cultivators only)
    12. Policies and procedures for processing of medical cannabis (for processors only)
    13. Waste management plans

For more information on what should be submitted in an application, click here and here.

What is the West Virginia application process?

  1. Application submission
  2. Completeness review
  3. Notification of advancement
  4. Review of criminal history
  5. County approvals
  6. Application scoring
  7. Permit awards
  8. Permit issuance

Be prepared for your application to up to six months (or more!).

How will my application be scored?

Here is a handy graph detailing the bureau’s scoring rubric for obtaining a West Virginia cannabis license:

West Virginia Scoring Rubric

Your goal should be to achieve an outstanding rating. Your application will be reviewed by a committee, so you will likely achieve a bit of score variance from committee member to committee member. As such, you want to ensure you pass your application to a few diverse and willing readers to get their feedback on areas of weakness (or better yet, consult with an outside firm like MJ Freeway to help you assemble your application). Another important thing to consider is the application completeness. Some states inform their applicants of incomplete sections or will inquire if they need clarification. However, West Virginia hasn’t outlined how they will handle incompleteness, so you want to make sure you’ve thoroughly completed all sections of the application or you might not even advance to the selection process.

How can I get a competitive advantage over other applicants?

In our Consulting Team’s experience submitting applications for potential licensees, there are a couple of areas where you can either really shine or you can fail. These areas are very broad and vary from application to application. Points given out in these areas fluctuate, so you have the potential to gain more points than the competition. This also means you can unknowingly lose points. Fortunately, West Virginia applications have no maximum page limit, so you can go into detail on these areas. Keep in mind, more words aren’t always better, so be as concise as you can.

These are the six areas you can either win big or lose big:

1. Location of your cannabis grow, processing facility, or dispensary

The West Virginia Medical Cannabis Commission has stated they are actively seeking to achieve geographic diversity when awarding licenses, so plan accordingly and think outside of the box to ensure your location is unique while also keeping in mind the surrounding population. The bureau will look at things like geographic location, the population in that region, the number of patients suffering from qualifying conditions, whether a county is even allowing these types of businesses to open, etc, so keep all these factors in mind and research before you decide on a specific location.

2. The makeup of your team

The composition of your management team should mimic that of a successful cannabis company. If you don’t know what that looks like, start by researching the top cultivators, processors, and dispensaries in established states to see what kinds of roles they have in place. You don’t have to copy their strategy completely, especially if they are a large multi-state operator and you don’t plan to expand your company outside of West Virginia. However, the makeup of your team should be modeled after these companies.

3. Your financial plan

This step also requires a little bit of research and reading between the line to figure out what the state prefers. In some states, having cash is preferred, while other states may have a strong preference for applicants with investment backing.

4. Your diversity plan

Diversity is extremely important to the cannabis industry. Not only does it help remedy the social injustice faced by communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition, but diversity also leads to more innovation, increased productivity, and higher profits.

Take Pennsylvania as an example. An applicant’s diversity plan comprised of 100 points – 10 percent of the 1,000 total allowable points. Those who didn’t factor in diversity not only in the workforce, but every step along the way, including management, ownership, and even partnerships, scored low in this category and could’ve meant the difference between winning a license and losing. Diversity is important, so make sure you include it in every facet of your potential business.

5. Your community impact plan

The only category comprised of more points than the diversity plan for Pennsylvania license applicants was the community impact plan. This is an area where the scoring committee will not only factor in your proposed plan for community involvement but what you’ve done for the community previously. So be sure to show the impact you already have had in your community.

6. Your security plan

Having a security plan in place is a huge part of any cannabis organization. They are looking for a well-thought-out, detailed security process as it relates to your products, customers, and employees are safe.

When will I learn if my application was approved or denied?

As of now, there is no specified time for permits to be awarded, so applicants should anticipate the process to take up to six months or more. During this time, make sure you prepared to continue to make payments for any property you’ve secured.

A little tip from our experience – announcements to applicant winners are often made on Friday afternoons after 3:00 PM, and they can be made via phone call, email or both.

The MJ Freeway difference

MJ Freeway takes a phased approach to consulting to help our clients from every stage before, after and during the application process:

Phase 1: Business development and pre-application process

Phase 2: Application for licensing

Phase 3: Pre-operation

Phase 4: Inspection readiness

Phase 5: Operational

Phase 6: Business optimization

We believe in helping clients at a very early stage to set them up for success, but also continuing to assist beyond the application. The application process is only one out of many crucial steps needed to operate a successful cannabis business. Our experts have more than 30 years of experience in both the recreational and medical marijuana industries and work as your partner. Your vision, strategies, and objectives become our vision, strategies, and objectives, and we help put together a solid plan to help you achieve your success.

If you are thinking about applying for a cannabis operator license in West Virginia, we can help you succeed. Click here to get started!