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History of Medical Cannabis in Virginia
February of 2015 marked the signing of HB 1445 and SB 1235, legislation extending some legal protections to epilepsy patients using CBD or THCA extracts. This law protects epilepsy patients using those specific medicines from prosecution but not arrest, and the legislation did not authorize the creation of a medical commercial cannabis system that would license cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, or legal retail facilities. However, the law only extended access to a single patient population, neglecting a large number of Virginia residents who could benefit from medical cannabis treatment, to include those suffering from chronic pain.
In 2017, Virginia enacted SB 1027, which for the first time authorizes the state Board of Pharmacy-licensed “pharmaceutical processors” to produce low-THC cannabis oils for patients suffering from intractable epilepsy. This extremely narrow law formally introduced the concept of a legal in-state cultivation, manufacturing, testing and retail of authorized CBD and THCA products for registered Virginia patients. The Virginia Board of Pharmacy adopted regulations establishing health and safety oversight in August 2017.
Old Dominion state lawmakers made significant improvements to the state’s medical program in 2018 and 2019. In March of 2018, lawmakers removed the state's qualifying condition list to allow THCA and CBD products for any condition that a physician deemed appropriate. In the fall of 2018, Virginia authorized CBD processors to begin operating in the state, and the Board of Pharmacies approved the first five licensed pharmaceutical processors in January of 2019.
In March 2019, Virginia enacted SB 1557, which allowed for production, use and sale of full therapeutic (15 percent CBD or THCA, 5 percent THC) strength creams and lozenges for registered patients. The law also allows for the use of CBD/THCA in schools for registered patients, permits registered agents to procure CBD or THCA products for patients and authorizes licensing of five medical cannabis retail facilities. 2019 also saw Virginia expand the scope of eligible medical professionals who may certify patient eligibility to include licensed physician assistants and nurse practitioners. The year concluded with Virginia’s Attorney General calling for a special session to discuss cannabis decriminalization, social equity, CBD and hemp regulation, and pathways to establishing a comprehensive commercial cannabis policy regime.
In 2020, Virginia passed legislation requiring the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to issue a report outlining a regulatory structure to oversee a comprehensive medical and adult-use cannabis program.