Last week, the Virginia General Assembly sent Gov. Terry McAuliffe a bill to stop suspending drivers’ licenses for first-offense possession of small amounts of marijuana! This bill reflects years of work by advocates and is a significant victory on the path towards reform in Virginia!
In addition, the Legislature approved a bill allowing in-state production of cannabis and distribution of low-THC/ high-CBD cannabis oil for patients suffering from intractable epilepsy. In order to take advantage of the program, patients must obtain a written certification from their neurologist or other epilepsy specialist. Another measure that would have included other medical conditions in the program was not passed by the Legislature.
While Virginia remains a long way off from joining the majority of states that have enacted more comprehensive reform — through decriminalization or the establishment of a medical marijuana program — these are two significant steps forward that advocates can celebrate.
Virginia is in its final week of its 2016 legislative session and of the many marijuana-related bills Virginian lawmakers considered this year, only one — SB 701 — has made it to the desk of Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
This limited bill allows the cultivation of cannabis by pharmaceutical processes that would then produce cannabidiol oil. Patients suffering from intractable epilepsy could receive the oil with a written certification from their doctor. While Gov. McAuliffe is expected to sign the legislation, epileptic patients won’t receive any benefit until at least 2017, as the bill requires a second passage next year.
While MPP applauds the Commonwealth’s effort to bring relief to residents suffering from epilepsy, this measure does not go nearly far enough. If you are a resident of Virginia, please ask your elected officials to show compassion for our sickest residents, including those with other serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, intractable pain, and PTSD. Medical marijuana is far less harmful and poses fewer negative side effects than most prescription drugs — especially painkillers — and patients often find it to be a more effective treatment.
We celebrate this narrow victory and look forward to a future where patients can benefit from the expertise of their doctors by finding relief in medical cannabis.
Last week, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill into law that will provide limited legal protections to patients with intractable epilepsy who find relief from low-THC marijuana. MPP does not consider Virginia a medical marijuana state because the law is so limited that it does not meet our definition of an effective medical marijuana law.
The new law allows certain patients and their parents to raise a defense in court for possession of certain strains of marijuana, which must have no more than 5% THC. It does not prevent the trauma and expense of an arrest or prosecution.
HB 1445 also fails to include any means of accessing those oils. The only realistic way to obtain them is for families to travel across the country to one of the very few states that allows out-of-state patients to access medical cannabis preparations. Even then, patients will have to travel through states where all marijuana is illegal to get home.
You can learn more about the law’s details here.
If you are a Virginia resident, please ask your legislators to make sure this is only a first step. Ask them to champion a compassionate, comprehensive law next year that doesn't leave thousands of patients with other serious conditions behind. Let them know Virginia should join the 23 other states that leave medical decisions to patients and doctors, and allow safe, in-state access to this beneficial medicine.
Earlier this week, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe took a question about legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use, as Colorado has done. While he is not “yet” supportive of this sensible policy change, he did use the question as an opportunity to express his support for medical marijuana. The Virginia General Assembly should follow suit by sending Gov. McAuliffe a comprehensive medical marijuana bill in 2015.
Virginia law already recognizes marijuana’s medicinal benefits, but, because of the way the law is written, patients are left without a legal way to access, possess, or even use their medicine without a change in federal policy. Virginia can and should enact a law similar to the laws in 23 states and D.C. that allow the terribly ill to use, possess, and access medical marijuana in state despite the failed and draconian federal prohibition.
If you are a Virginia resident, please email your lawmakers urging them to pass compassionate legislation.