Virginia Becomes 12th State to Add Patient Protections of CBD Extracts

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) signed a cannabidiol (CBD) extract affirmative defense bill earlier today, making Virginia the 12th state in the country to pass legal protections for patients with a medical necessity for CBD extracts. Today's bill signing now brings the total number of states with some sort of legal recognition and protection for marijuana-based medicine up to 35. 

The bill, HB 1445, resembles many of the CBD laws that were passed in 2014, but has at least one unique feature. Like nearly all of the 2014 CBD laws, the new Virginia law is limited to seizure disorders, and the law only grants protection from prosecution, but does not create protection from arrest, nor does it set up a system that will allow patients in Virginia to acquire their medicine from within the Commonwealth. Another similarity is that this bill does not allow access to products in which THC is the primary cannabinoid, but has a slightly higher THC cap than most CBD states, with a 5% max. However, the law requires that extracts have a minimum of 15% CBD, which is highest CBD floors of any state with this type of law along with Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah. The standout feature of HB 1445 is that in addition to the legal protections for CBD, it also protects patients for THC-A. Like CBD extracts under the law, the caps for THC-A extracts require a minimum of 15% THC-A and a max of 5% THC.

While the bill is very limited and will require that patients obtain the medicine from a far away state that allows non-residents to have access, the legal protections will absolutely improve the lives for several families in the Commonwealth that have been forced to move away or split up in order to find access in another state. As reported in the Washington Post, the Collins family from Virginia will now be reunited and able to live as a whole family once again in their native VA. "We’re so happy that [our daughter] Jennifer can now stay here in Virginia where she belongs,” said Beth Collins to the Post. The Collins family and several other families with loved ones living with seizure disorders organized via the Virginia Parents 4 Medical Marijuana group on Facebook to ensure passage of the bill.

The frustrating thing about the legislative process in the Virginia in 2015 is that legislators told activists working on this bill and also those working on more comprehensive medical marijuana legislation that no marijuana-based medical bills would pass in 2015. The fact that the bill passed without any "NO" votes in the House and received only a single "NO" vote in the Senate indicates that a more comprehensive bill was in fact possible, but that there was a lack of political will among elected officials to fight for a bill that would help a great many more Virginians with debilitating medical conditions. The best way for medical marijuana patients and advocates to get a better law next year is to engage with their elected state officials several times between now and the fall when legislators begin drafting their bills for the next session.