Virginia Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Program Improvement Bill Parents Resuscitate SB701 and Prepare for House Vote

February 17, 2016 | Talana Lattimer

(Richmond, VA) - Yesterday, the Virginia Senate by a vote of 37 to 2 passed SB701, a bill that would allow the production and manufacturing of cannabidiol (CBD) oil and THC-A oil in the state. For the past several weeks, patients, parents and advocates from across the state worked tirelessly to persuade members of the Senate to move forward on this issue, which until last year seemed out of reach for Virginia's conservative legislature.

Last year’s passage of SB1235 and HB1445 gave intractable epilepsy patients and their caregivers an affirmative defense for possession of two marijuana oils, THCa and CBD, used to treat seizures. However, the law provides no way for patients to obtain the oils without breaking federal and state laws. To help rectify this situation, Senator Marsden from Fairfax introduced SB701, which, if passed, will provide a mechanism for production in the state of these oils for patients with intractable epilepsy.

“Patients and their families undergo incredible daily stress managing uncontrolled seizures. Breaking laws to obtain this treatment is an additional stressor these families do not need.  Yesterday’s vote is a just another small victory towards ensuring these patients have safe, reliable access to this treatment,” said Beth Collins, ASA director of communications and outreach. “The passage of SB701 would have a dramatic impact on the lives of patients by further expanding the medical cannabis program to allow access to low-THC extracts within the state of Virginia.”

Virginia is one of 40 states with medical marijuana laws but, as detailed in ASA’s latest report on Medical Cannabis Access in the U.S., is one of the seventeen states that limits use to CBD and THCa oils for certain conditions. With the passage of SB 701, Virginia could drastically improve the state’s failing grade on medical cannabis access.  

Advocates plan to return to the General Assembly early next week to begin lobbying key legislators in the House.

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