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The Voice of West Virginia

Permit applications in from potential medical marijuana labs, dispensaries, processors and growers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The application period has now closed for those initially interested in becoming part of West Virginia’s medical marijuana industry with 285 total permit applications submitted from growers, processors, dispensaries and labs.

The application period ended at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Reviews of the applications, including background checks, will be the next steps, according to information from the Office of Medical Cannabis in the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

A scoring team with consider the applications and provide recommendations to an awards team to determine the issuance of permits.

No timeline for the review work was provided, but there were indications it could extend into May.

Previously, those with the Office of Medical Cannabis indicated ten grower permits, ten processor permits, up to 100 dispensary permits and unlimited lab permits were available.

A vertical integration law allowed for the same parties to apply for grower, processor and dispensary permits.

The permitting is the next step in the implementation process for the law legalizing marijuana in West Virginia for medical uses.

What was a two-month application period for the available permits opened in December.

The breakdown for applications received included 199 dispensary applications, 41 applications from potential processors, 44 from growers and one testing lab.

Operational preparations will follow the permit decisions.

Separate permits in the form of medical cannabis cards will be required for patients with medical conditions as defined in the Medical Cannabis Act and as determined by physicians registered with the Office of Medical Cannabis.

The patient cards, good for one year, could come with restrictions.

Thus far, no application release date for patients has been scheduled.

Under the existing timeline, it could be the middle of 2021, at the earliest, before West Virginia’s medical marijuana industry is fully operating for patients.

In recent weeks, leaders in a number of West Virginia counties have taken steps to make clear their support for industry companies.

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Debate goes back and forth on resolution calling for convention of states

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a public hearing on the House chamber floor, numerous West Virginia citizens voiced support and concern for a resolution sitting in the House urging Congress to call a convention to propose a Constitutional amendment on congressional term limits.

The state Senate passed the resolution, S.C.R. 4, 20 to 10 with four absences in the first two weeks of the 2020 regular legislative session.

Ted Boettner, the Executive Director of West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy said during the hearing in front of the Committee on the Judiciary a convention is a threat to the Constitution.

Tim Boettner

He said that a convention could be confined to one issue.

“Since there is no clear procedure to limit the process, scope or outcome of a Constitutional Convention,” Boettner said.

“It could write its own rules, set its own agenda, and it could choose a new ratification process. That’s because no other body, including the courts, have clear authority over a convention.”

Those in favor of the resolution, including West Virginia State Director for US Term Limit Aaron Dukette, say the resolution is narrowly focused on the term limits issue.

The text of the resolution passed in the state Senate on January 22 states “to set a limit on the number of terms that a person may be elected as a member of the United States House of Representatives or as a member of the United States Senate.”

“Those who oppose term limits, I don’t have much to offer (Wednesday),” Dukette said at the hearing.

“81 percent of West Virginians polled in a McLaughlin Poll in 2018 said that they want this resolution passed to achieve the end of term limits on Congress.”

West Virginia citizen Betty Rivard spoke against the resolution, saying special interests have poured in money to make this happen.

“There are no quick fixes to changing our United States Constitution,” she said. “It deserves the careful and deliberate and time tested congressional process that protects the essence of our democracy.”

Boettner also expressed patience to those who want change with term limits.

“While many West Virginians may be angry and frustrated today, we should be careful that our anger and frustration may cause us to take steps that permanently change the country and diminish its promise,” he said.

To have such a convention, which has never happened despite being defined by Article V of the U.S. Constitution, must have two-thirds of all states pass similar resolutions.

The Mountain State would become the 16th state to do so if the House approves the resolution.

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Tucker County hunter’s buck is our Ram Trucks Grand Prize winner

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Jake Phillips of Hambleton, West Virginia killed a buck on a snowy Wednesday afternoon during the second week of West Virginia’s buck season in 2019. A picture snapped by his hunting partner that afternoon is the grand prize winner in our 2019-20 Ram Trophy Photo Contest.

Since October 1st, listeners, readers and online followers of MetroNews, West Virginia Outdoors, and our social media accounts have been sharing pictures of their adventures in the outdoors. Each week, our computer randomly drew a winner for a Ram Trucks prize package.

 

Submitted

Johnny Casey

Our January winner was John Casey of Ravenswood, W.Va. John sent along a picture of his six year old son Johnny and his first largemouth bass. As if Johnny’s smile wasn’t a big enough prize, he also got nice prize pack from Ram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submitted

Ernest Staddon

December’s winner was Ernest Staddon of Morgantown. He shared the picture of a nice buck he killed on the opening day of the West Virginia 2019 rifle season in Ritchie County.

 

 

 

 

Submitted

Frank Lewis (r) and Jason Keplinger

November’s winner was Frank Lewis of Wheeling, W.Va. Frank shared a picture of a buck he killed in Hardy County. Pictured with Frank and his buck is his hunting buddy Jason Keplinger. Jason owned the land where the two were hunting that day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submitted

J.R. and Tiffany Warner

October’s prize winner was Jill Warner of Riverton, W.Va. Jill shared a picture of her son J.R and her daughter Tiffany with a bear Tiffany killed in Pendleton County.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to everyone who shared your pictures. Keep those snapshots of your outdoor adventures and we’ll be back next fall to do it all again. Remember, if it’s a trophy to you…it’s a trophy to us.

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SSAC continues to examine chaotic game that prompted ‘thugs’ comments

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The organization overseeing school sports in West Virginia is continuing to investigate a girls basketball fracas that has drawn unusual attention after comments by one of the coaches who is also the state’s governor.

“As you are aware, playing rules are very clear and have immediate consequences. Other rules violations take more time for a complete investigation,” stated  Bernie Dolan, executive director of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission, in response to questions posed by MetroNews.

Bernie Dolan

He said the organization is continuing to gather information.

“The WVSSAC has investigated and believes there is still some factual information that we haven’t received. We have viewed numerous videos and the three official reports of the game. There may be additional reports sent soon by the security personnel.”

The chaos that unfolded during a fourth quarter timeout isn’t easy to sort through, although it has become more clear after the release of game video and surveillance video.

MetroNews was able to obtain each through a Freedom of Information Act request to Greenbrier East High School. Interviews and statements by those who were there also help piece together what happened.

One of those who was directly involved was Greenbrier East fan Steve Damon, who spoke with MetroNews by telephone this week.

Damon, whose daughter is a player for Greenbrier East, said the situation actually started developing during a prior matchup between the two rivals when he and Woodrow Wilson assistant coach Gene Nabors exchanged words.

“Me and him have a history from the last game,” Damon said.

That continued last week when the two squads met again at Greenbrier East. As Damon described it, the two continued to make eye contact and exchange heated words even though Damon was in the stands and Nabors was on the court.

Without audio, it’s hard to determine what role, if any, race played in what was said. Damon is biracial and Nabors is black.

Damon got so angry that he acknowledged giving Nabors the middle finger and the got up and said “keep playing with me, keep playing with me.”

Then, Damon said, he left his seat and walked to a State Police trooper to warn that Nabors should “stop or there’s going to be trouble in the parking lot.”

Nabors, in turn, left a timeout huddle and walked across the corner of the court to seek help from Woodrow Wilson Principal Rockey Powell and athletic director J.T. Payne, who were seated along the baseline.

Powell, in a statement released this past weekend, said Nabors was trying “to address an opposing fan who had been using derogatory language and gestures towards him throughout the game.”

In his own response to MetroNews questions, the SSAC’s Dolan said that was the correct course of action.

“Disputes between coaches and fans should be dealt with by the school administration. I would note that both schools’ administration were in attendance at the game,” Dolan stated.

“Originally Coach Gene Nabors left the bench area to seek the help of his administration, who were sitting underneath the bucket near the WW bench. We are currently still determining all of the events that followed. I believe there is legal action taking place and I think it would be inappropriate to comment until that is completed.”

As Dolan alluded, that’s when matters flew out of hand.

Damon, still angry, approaches the Woodrow group along the baseline.

“I’m going off on him. I’m ready to fight,” Damon recalled. “Then his son ran up on me and all hell broke loose.”

That was Donte Nabors, Gene’s son. As the surveillance video shows, Nabors turns around and steadily pushes his son off the court.

“At no time did the assistant coach enter the stands. At no time did the assistant coach engage in a physical altercation with the opposing fan,” Powell, Woodrow Wilson’s principal, described in his statement.

But then, police officers at the game have started to respond. Nabors turns around and an officer is right there. He puts his hands on the officer but does not appear to shove.

Then Nabors is pushed out of the frame and eventually winds up handcuffed. HIs lawyer, Randolph McGraw said Nabors was issued a citation and suffered a broken arm and injured back.

The SSAC looked into whether Nabors should be suspended and decided against it.

As the surveillance video shows, all that goes right through the Woodrow Wilson bench area, where players are still standing nearby because of the timeout.

The game video shows the players’ reaction, which is intense. Some of the players rush from where they are to the corridor where Nabors has been taken out. Others stay in place, with one player picking up a chair and tossing it down.

Woodrow Wilson head coach Brian Nabors, Gene’s brother, said the reactions were a result of normal human emotions during an intense situation.

“The bottom line is, our girls were concerned about their coach — about his safety because he was pushed down very, very hard and it was very unfortunate that took place,” Brian Nabors, Woodrow Wilson’s head coach and Gene’s brother, told Fred Persinger II of West Virginia Radio last week.

The players who left the court were ejected from the game and have had to serve automatic two-game suspensions.

“The rules say if you leave the bench you get suspended. And our kids didn’t leave the bench to go attend the so-called altercation because it wasn’t an altercation. Coach Gene was pushed down.”

The Woodrow Wilson team then goes to the locker room, with some gesturing at Woodrow Wilson fans on the way across the court.

At that point, Greenbrier East Coach Jim Justice gets more directly involved, calling for the game to be forfeited. The game is eventually called. And that’s when Tyler Jackson, sports reporter for Beckley’s Register-Herald newspaper, asked for reaction from Justice, who is also West Virginia’s governor.

“They’re a bunch of thugs,” Justice said in the post-game interview. “The whole team left the bench, the coach is in a fight, they walked off the floor, they called the game.”

For transparency, here’s the entire interview with Justice. Excuse me bumbling over my words, there was a lot going on. pic.twitter.com/2JrH3inLmp

— Tyler Jackson (@TjackRH) February 12, 2020

The word “thugs”  can have racial connotations. Woodrow Wilson has a 19 percent black and 72 percent white population. Two black men coach the Flying Lady Eagles team.

The comments drew criticism on social media and at the state Capitol, as well as national attention at media outlets like The Washington Post and Sports Illustrated.

WVNS

Rockey Powell

Powell, the Woodrow Wilson principal, was among those who took offense.

“Immediately following the game and in the days thereafter, Woodrow Wilson High School students have been subjected to unfortunate and inappropriate remarks by the coach of the Greenbrier East High School girls’ basketball team,” Powell stated.

“The remarks show complete lack of respect for our students and coaches.”

After controversy swirled about the governor’s post-game comments for several days, Justice had a series of on-one-one interviews with reporters that began with viewings of clips from the game and surveillance videos.

Office of the Governor

Gov. Jim Justice

The governor said he was sorry about his use of the word “thugs” and that he didn’t intend any racist connotations. But he said he did not regret calling out what he saw as poor behavior by Woodrow Wilson, the high school where he graduated.

“From the standpoint of the governor and the coach together, I think it would have been a shame to have walked off and said ‘Well, I just hate the way things worked out tonight and we’ll just let the SSAC or whoever attend to it,’” the governor said on Friday afternoon.

“Because I should stand up whether I be the governor, I just be Jim Justice, I be the coach — no matter what I should stand up for our kids. I should. This kind of behavior hurt the Beckley kids. It hurt us all. I should stand up for that and condemn it. Because I don’t want that. I don’t want that in any way, shape, form or fashion.”

The State Police provided a statement this week in response to MetroNews questions. Cpt. Shallon Oglesby said the troopers who responded were not members of the Governor’s security detail.

The statement also confirmed earlier reporting that Gene Nabors was cited for obstructing an officer. Steven Damon was issued a summons for disorderly conduct and Donte Nabors was issued a summons for disorderly conduct and obstructing an officer. Nobody went to jail.

Questions that were left unaddressed were: What security was assigned to the game? What is the protocol for dealing with a crowd disturbance? And what protocol was the officer following in the interaction with Gene Nabors?

Dolan of the SSAC said the video seems to indicate State Police, sheriff’s deputies and security personnel were at the scene, although even he doesn’t have that confirmed.

Damon, the Greenbrier East fan, acknowledged — to some degree — that his role in the situation fell far short of ideal.

“I know there’s things I did in the wrong. I could have handled myself better,” he said on the telephone. “For me to go to that police officer and try to restrain myself was a lot for me to do.”

Greenbrier East and Woodrow Wilson could play again in a little more than a week.

Greenbrier East is the No. 1 sectional seed and Woodrow Wilson is the No. 2 seed. The sectional championship is Friday, Feb. 28.

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Derek Culver responds to benching with energetic performance

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Derek Culver is one player with whom Bob Huggins has no qualms about sending a strong message.

Culver’s West Virginia career began with one. He was suspended by Huggins for the first semester of his college career, which both parties have since deemed as helpful to Culver’s overall maturation.

Huggins pulled Culver out of the starting lineup on two previous occasions this season, using him off the bench against Northern Colorado and Rhode Island in non-conference games intended to send a message.

Each time, Huggins got through. Culver ended up with a career-high 25 points against Rhode Island. Against Northern Colorado, Culver scored 13 in his 11 minutes on the floor, including a 7 of 8 showing at the free-throw line.

So it is absolutely no surprise that Culver once again had an answer for one of Huggins’ benchings, with his defensive presence in the second half helping account for Oklahoma State’s dramatic drop-off in shooting Tuesday night. After firing 62 percent from the field in the first half, the Cowboys only hit 17 percent of their field-goal attempts in the second.

“You can’t underestimate what Derek did,” Huggins said. “You’re talking about a 6-foot-9, 270-pound guy who can sit down to stay in front of people. Make them shoot over him, and then, when he wants to be a shot-blocker, he can block shots.”

Culver finished the game with 10 rebounds and two blocks in his 20 minutes. He also chipped in six points, including West Virginia’s first bucket of the second half.

“I think the first couple shots he blocked got their attention a little bit,” Huggins said. “They were a little less eager to drive it after the rim after that.”

Culver struggled during West Virginia’s three-game losing streak, failing to reach double-figure scoring or rebounding. The Baylor loss was the low point, with Culver playing only 12 minutes after putting up three points, three rebounds and four turnovers.

“I took it as a challenge personally, I’m not going to lie, to go out and showcase what I have,” Culver said of the benching. “But I wasn’t upset or anything like that. It was just kind of a little wakeup call. It was nothing bad. In the second half I came out and kind of capitalized on it.”

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MetroNews This Morning 2-19-20

California based Alecto announces plans to close Fairmont Regional Medical Center which brings a firestorm of concern and criticism, at the State Capitol foster care legislation clears the House of Delegates and the House produces its own version of a “Tim Tebow Bill.” Over in the Senate a fund which props up dog racing appears to be on its way out and the Boy Scouts in West Virginia note they are not tied to the national organization’s bankruptcy filing. In Sports, WVU gets back in the win column at home. Those stories and more in today’s edition.

Listen to “Metronews This Morning 2-19-20” on Spreaker.

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Another community hospital closure in WV

During a recent appearance on Talkline, West Virginia Hospital Association President and CEO Joe Letnaunchyn predicted more hospital closings were ahead, and he was right.

Just days after that interview, Fairmont Regional Medical Center notified its employees that it’s closing within weeks. The hospital is owned by the same company—California-based Alecto Healthcare—which just a few months ago shut down the Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio.

Unfortunately, community hospital closures are becoming increasingly common. The Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research reports that 166 rural hospitals in the country have closed since 2005. And the pace is picking up. Nineteen closed last year, the most of any year since 2005.

Fairmont may not be the last in West Virginia. “There are others on the bubble,” Letnaunchyn told me before he knew of Fairmont’s closing. “I keep hearing there is going to be some news coming out of these hospitals.”

The American Hospital Association (AHA) issued a report last year on the challenges facing hospitals in rural communities.

“Some of these challenges—such as low patient volume and a heavy reliance on public payer programs—have persisted for many years,” the report found, “while others—such as increased regulatory burden and shifts from inpatient to outpatient care—are more recent.”

As a result, rural hospitals often must make difficult decisions about which services to provide and whether to fill vacant positions or even layoff workers. When they run out of options, the result is closure.

Operating a hospital in West Virginia is particularly difficult because of a combination of these problems.  We are a poor, rural state with an older population, a serious drug problem and a higher percentage of government payers whose reimbursements do not cover the full cost of treatment.

The AHA says “Without resource support (read: higher reimbursements) and targeted policies for rural communities, many hospitals in these areas will not be able to effectively tackle new or existing challenges.”

For Fairmont residents, hospital care and healthcare jobs can be found a half hour north or south on I-79 in either Morgantown or Clarksburg, and it appears West Virginia is going through a painful period of hospital closure and consolidation.  However, the shuttering of a hospital is a tragedy for a community.

Hospitals are critical anchors in communities, providing essential healthcare and good jobs.  Fairmont Regional Medical Center—formerly known as Fairmont General—has been a cornerstone of Fairmont and Marion County for over a century.

It’s imminent closure marks not only the end of an era, but also yet another graphic example of the challenges facing the healthcare delivery system in West Virginia and all rural America.

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Cabell County man pleads guilty to taking funds from church

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Cabell County man entered a guilty plea on Tuesday after taking thousands of dollars from an Ona church.

Robert Dale Adkins, 75, pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Tuesday.

Between at least 2012 until December 2018, Adkins served as the church’s treasurer and had access to the church’s checking account. He also had the authority to sign checks on behalf of the church.

According to U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart, Adkins wrote checks to personal creditors without the knowledge or approval of church leaders. Adkins wrote $487,488.92 worth of checks.

He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as restitution to the church. His sentencing date is May 18.

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West Virginia breaks out the bats in home-opening win over Canisius

GRANVILLE, W.Va. — West Virginia dodged the rain and opened its home schedule with a bang, scoring 15 runs on 17 hits in a 15-8 win over Canisius at Monongalia County Ballpark.

Seven Mountaineers registered an RBI in the squad’s home-opening triumph, while five recorded multiple hits. WVU scored runs in five innings, including six in the bottom of the sixth.

Freshman catcher/infielder Matt McCormick led the way, going 4-of-6 with a towering home run and three RBIs, while redshirt senior outfielder Braden Zarbnisky finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored, two stolen bases and two RBIs.

“Zarb is just a great college player – both sides of the baseball,” WVU coach Randy Mazey said. “He’s super valuable, and he never gets rattled. He’s been around for five years now and knows the ropes pretty well. And having Matt McCormick start to swing the bat well is really going to help us down the stretch.”

Additionally, sophomore infielder/outfielder Austin Davis tallied three hits, including a triple, for WVU (3-1), while senior infielder Kevin Brophy and junior infielder Tyler Doanes each had two.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Tim Wynia earned the win in his WVU debut. The Plano, Texas, native came out of the bullpen to collect two strikeouts in the top of the fifth.

Freshman right-handed pitcher Skylar Gonzalez was also effective out of the bullpen, allowing no runs or hits in 3 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out five in his collegiate debut.

Tuesday marked the earliest home opener in program history. It also was just the team’s second February home game ever.

Six of WVU’s seven pitchers were newcomers, and five of them – Gonzalez, freshman right-hander Carter Lyles, Wynia, freshman right-hander Jacob Watters and Short – all made their collegiate debuts on Tuesday.

Next up, West Virginia travels to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the Brittain Resorts Invitational, from Feb. 21-24.

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Britt Sherman promoted to Martinsburg head football coach

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Longtime assistant Britt Sherman has been promoted to Martinsburg’s head football coach. His appointment became official at Tuesday’s Berkeley County Board of Education meeting.

Sherman has previously served as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator and junior varsity head coach. Martinsburg currently owns the nation’s second-longest winning streak at 56 games and the Bulldogs have won four consecutive Class AAA state championships.

Sherman replaces Dave Walker, who resigned to become the head coach at Concord University in December. Walker led the Bulldogs to eight state titles in a span of ten years and he won 53 career playoff games.

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