Virginia Quietly Moves Forward with Medical Cannabis Program

On Thursday, March 16th, Virginia Governor McAuliffe signed Senate Bill 1027 into law allowing the production and distribution of cannabidiol oil (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) with up to 5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for patients with intractable epilepsy.  Unlike the signing of SB1235 and HB1445 in 2015 (providing an affirmative defense for possession of the oils), which took place in a reporter-packed room surrounded by the children and parents who had lobbied for the bill, the signing of SB1027 went relatively unnoticed by the media. However, it remains a significant move forward in the conservative state.

The bill, which passed unanimously out of the House and Senate “Authorizes a pharmaceutical processor, after obtaining a permit from the Board of Pharmacy (the Board) and under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist, to manufacture and provide cannabidiol oil and THC-A oil to be used for the treatment of intractable epilepsy.” While other bills which hoped to expand the conditions beyond epilepsy failed to pass, the move forward into allowing cannabis to be legally grown and processed on Virginia soil is a huge step forward for the movement in Virginia.  It will take at least a year before the program licenses will be issued, and during that time, advocates will be using the momentum achieved throughout the session to build support among the General Assembly to broaden the scope of the law. Several lawmakers have already expressed interest in sponsoring such legislation.

The attitudes towards medical cannabis have dramatically softened during the past three years in the General Assembly as caregivers and patients have met with members and told their stories of the successful use of cannabis where traditional medications have failed.  The parents of children with intractable epilepsy worked tirelessly for the past three years to pass this legislation, and it will take a similar effort including patients with other conditions, doctors, law enforcement and legislators to pass a comprehensive bill in the Commonwealth in 2018.

While this law was signed without much pomp and circumstance, it will hopefully pave the way for all patients of Virginia whose suffering can be relieved with medical cannabis.