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County wins cannabis dispensary
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ROMNEY — After recent state approval, a medical marijuana dispensary can now take root in Springfield.

Curative Growth Inc., a medical cannabis firm created by Springfield native Bryan Steward, has been given the green light by the West Virginia Office of Medical Cannabis to open dispensaries in Fairmont, Morgantown and Springfield.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the Bureau for Public Health and the OMC announced the successful applicants for dispensary permits on Jan. 29. Curative Growth was 1 of 32 businesses OK’d to open dispensaries around the Mountain State.

Starting Feb. 3, West Virginia residents with severe medical conditions can register to receive medical cannabis, but it doesn’t guarantee immediate access: the patient cards will only be valid in West Virginia, and registration must be done through the OMC website at www.medcanwv.org.

“Even during this pandemic, the Office of Medical Cannabis has been working hard to advance the program and to achieve these steps to ensure that medical cannabis is made available to West Virginia residents with serious medical conditions,” said Jason Frame, the director of the OMC.

Curative Growth was 1 of 2 companies applying for growing, processing and dispensing licenses in the county; the other was GreenSmith LLC.

Over the summer, the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health announced they’d be issuing permits for 10 growers, 10 processors and 100 dispensaries in the state.

In the fall, the state released the successful applicants for medical cannabis growing and processing permits, and while Hampshire County wasn’t on the list, Mountaineer Integrated Care, Inc. in Fort Ashby was approved for both.

The timeline for medical cannabis is simple: those with the proper permits will cultivate medical cannabis plants, and then send them for processing into the approved, allowable forms (pill, oil, topical treatments, plant form for vaporization/nebulization, tincture, liquid and dermal patches).

Then, dispensaries like Curative Growth will take on the actual distribution.

The awarding of dispensary licenses is the last step in the competitive permitting phase of the medical cannabis industry in the state. Laying this necessary foundation will allow the state to begin issuing patient cards for West Virginians in the next few months.

The state also published a list of physicians registered with the OMC, and while no Hampshire physicians are registered right now, Melissa Graves, M.D. of Keyser, Dr. Julie Sanicola-Johnson of Berkeley Springs and William Thomas, M.D. of Keyser all are registered to recommend medical cannabis to those with a patient card.

Testing, shots at forefront
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The nitty-gritty of battling Covid-19 — testing and vaccinating — are at the forefront of efforts in Hampshire County and across West Virginia.

A vaccination clinic — with all spots already allocated — will occur Thursday at Hope Christian Church Augusta. Shots are available to residents 65 and older.

Free testing is being conducted today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hampshire County Fairgrounds dining hall in Augusta. Tests are also available, the state’s website says, at the Walgreen pharmacy in Romney during Monday-Friday business hours.

West Virginia’s rollout of vaccinations continues to lead the nation. As of Monday, 92,482 West Virginians age 65 and older have been vaccinated, with 22,485 of them having both doses.

Still, Gov. Jim Justice said, West Virginia faces limits.

“Everybody needs to realize that we do not have enough vaccines to do everybody right now,” he said. “But we’re pushing. We’re going to continue to push and we’re going to continue to get out every single vaccine we have.”

Even though the shots are limited now to those 65 or older, Justice on Monday encouraged any West Virginian age 16 or older to register.

The state has a single phone number and website for registering people who want to be vaccinated. Residents who are registered are eligible to be vaccinated in any county.

The website is vaccinate.wv.gov and the phone number is 1-833-734-0965.

Hampshire’s latest numbers include 38 new cases over the weekend bring the total of active cases to 123 with 5 hospitalizations.

For the duration of the pandemic, Hampshire County has had 1,440 confirmed cases and 25 deaths.

The county remains stubbornly in Red Status on the state’s 5-color map that tracks the disease.

Red status means Hampshire High School students continue to be taught remotely. School attendance is determined by the map on Saturday.

Students up through 8th grade are attending classes 2 days a week — half on Mondays and Tuesdays and the others on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Trump sign burnt again
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AUGUSTA — For the 2nd time in a month, a billboard supporting former President Trump was set ablaze here.

State Police are asking for the public’s help in locating a car they believe was involved.

Saturday’s fire was reported shortly after 10 p.m. Augusta Fire Company quickly put it out and the West Virginia State Police responded to the apparent arson.

The billboard on U.S. 50 near Sol Shanholtz Road reads “Trump / Keep America Great” and shows a Blue Lives Matter flag. 

“You can’t miss it,” said Review Managing Editor Nick Carroll, who passed the billboard shortly before the fire was set and then returned to shoot pictures when a friend who lives nearby texted him about the ruckus.

Carroll saw the white compact that State Police are looking for, but also said 2 other vehicles appeared to be part of the plan.

He said a van was parked along U.S. 50 across from the billboard with its flashers on.

“I saw a man about 6 feet tall, wearing a trench coat, with longer hair, briskly crossing the road toward the Trump sign,” he said.

Parked in front of the billboard were 2 cars — the white compact and a blue sedan Carroll thought was a Ford — with their headlights pointing toward the sign.

When Carroll returned to the scene, the fire was already extinguished.

State Police said the white car headed east toward Winchester, but the witness who identified it had no other information.

Anyone with information about the white car, the other vehicles or any activity surrounding the fire are asked to call the West Virginia State Police’s Romney office at 304-822-3561 and ask for Officer Wolfe.

Sgt. J.R. Fletcher said the billboard was first set afire on Jan. 6, the day a mob of Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol, disrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president.

Slow storm of ’21
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Snow falls for 2 days, but only 5 to 12 inches

Taking to Facebook, folks reported their measurements.

Susan Owen said at last check Sunday, it was 9 inches out near Bloomery.

Michael Dillinger maintained that Springfield was covered in 7 inches, while Robin Corbin reported a foot in Purgitsville.

Sunday night, parents of Hampshire County students received a call that schools would be closed on Monday.

A real snow day for Hampshire: no snow packets, no remote learning, no homework assignments, none of it. Just a day for kids to make memories in the winter weather.

“Thank you for letting our kids be kids,” said Heather Dice in response to the snow day.

Social media was peppered with photos of Hampshire kids smiling, sledding, building snowmen, snow women, snow dogs and snow angels.

The snowfall started in the wee hours Sunday morning, and it was continuous throughout the day.

It slowed down even more, but continued to snow through Monday as well. The Hampshire County Fire Association was even calling for an additional 2 to 4 inches Monday before the slow storm ended.

The Fire Association encouraged folks to exercise extreme caution when driving and venturing outside, especially since steps, sidewalks and driveways could be icy and dangerous.

As of Tuesday morning, all of the storm warnings have expired, and the glory of a real, no-kidding snow day has faded a bit as remote learning resumed for the week. A few flakes swirl defiantly, but it seems that the heavy snowfall has passed. The forecast for Wednesday and Thursday shows mostly sunny skies, chilly temperature and continued caution when it comes to braving the roads and sidewalks.

Dog dead after ‘lion’ sighting
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Reports of a male African lion on the loose Saturday floated across Facebook and brought out Division of Natural Resources personnel.

But one panic-stricken person’s lion in this case turned out to be another man’s oddly styled large dog.

“It was a big dog,” Natural Resources Police in Romney said Monday before directing further inquires to Charleston, where a media-relations officer confirmed the sighting and detailed the outcome.

“They sent a drone to the area, and it captured footage of an animal in a field matching that description,” Lawrence Messina emailed. “Given the perceived threat to the public’s safety, the animal was shot and killed.”

But when officers got to the body, they found it to be a large dog groomed to look like a lion.

That confirmed Facebook suspicions. People on the Capital Naturalist page, where the information was 1st posted, commented on the size in the low-quality photo taken across a field near Forks of Cacapon.

“Scale looks extremely wrong,” one woman wrote. “It just looks too tiny,” another man responded.

Natural Resource Police were continuing the investigation Monday, attempting to identify the dog’s owner.