Chris Yeager says he is sick of seeing people dying of opioid overdoses.
Over the past several years, two members of his family overdosed and died, including his brother, who died on Christmas Eve in 2010. Both were taking suboxone, which is used to treat pain and opiate addiction.
“It devastated our family,” he said. “There aren’t many people in this state who aren’t affected by this epidemic.”
Those deaths inspired Yeager, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, to look for other ways people suffering from chronic pain and other ailments might find relief without getting addicted to prescription medications.
In August 2017, he opened Appalachian Cannabis in Cross Lanes, which sells products made from cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-hallucinogenic chemical found in cannabis plants. The business, which employs approximately 20 people, has since expanded to include locations in Morgantown and a kiosk in the Charleston Town Center mall. He also owns an industrial hemp farm where he grows and processes the CBD his business needs.
“The reason I’m in this industry wholeheartedly is because of the prescription drug epidemic in our state,” he said.
The growing and selling of cannabis has always been a big business in West Virginia, but it has always been underground and part of the black market. That’s changing. Medical marijuana is expected to become available in the state later this year, and a once-hidden part of West Virginia’s economy is transitioning from the shadows to the spotlight.
Cannabis has often and cynically been called West Virginia’s biggest cash crop. It has always been grown here, but getting an exact figure on how much is hard to find.
Growers work in the black market. They don’t file crop production reports with the state Department of Agriculture. They don’t