Updated on July 2, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
While a small percentage of people may soon be able to find relief from epileptic seizures through medical marijuana laws in Virginia, the vast majority of patients will have to continue to do without the medicinal benefits of cannabis. There are some positive signs that point to potential movement toward marijuana reform, but true progress is probably still years away.
Several bills addressing reform of marijuana laws in Virginia were presented at the start of the state’s 2017 legislative session. One of them, a bill that would remove the mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension for first-time offenders caught possessing small amounts of weed, made it through the committee stage. There was even overwhelming support for the bill in the Senate, as it passed by a margin of 38 to 2. However, two other bills that would decriminalize cannabis failed to make it.
In 2016, the state’s General Assembly approved a bill that would allow certain licensed entities in the state to produce cannabidiol (CBD) oil for patients suffering seizures due to intractable epilepsy. Before the bill becomes law, however, it had to pass again in 2017. As of this writing, the bill was passed by the House but was still under consideration by the Senate. Until that happens, Virginians will not have any in-state access to CBD oil.
More than 24 bills addressing Virginia marijuana laws were introduced during the 2017 session. This is a good sign that lawmakers in the state are open to not only making the plant more accessible for certain medical reasons but also being more lenient on people convicted of simple possession. However, a large number of legislators are vehemently opposed to any changes.
One senator, Dick Black, told The Associated Press that, based on his experiences in the 1960s when he returned from serving in Vietnam, pot was the main reason that there was “a collapse of good order and discipline.”
However, another state senator, Jill Holtzman Vogel, introduced a bill calling for an expansion of medical marijuana laws in Virginia to include more than a dozen other diseases to the list of conditions that qualify for treatment with CBD oil. In the same article, Vogel was quoted as saying that not only does CBD oil lack side effects, but it has substantial healing properties. Another bill, this one introduced by House member Mark Levine, would allow doctors to recommend marijuana or THC and would also allow pharmacists to distribute the medicine to patients. Yet another bill would make both CBD and THC-A oil available to people suffering from cancer or Crohn’s disease.
While there is progress toward changing Virginia’s medical marijuana laws, deeply-rooted opposition will make it extremely difficult for the foreseeable future. We hope that lawmakers will eventually realize that marijuana is indeed medicine, and it can help people suffering from terrible diseases find the relief they so desperately seek. MarijuanaDoctors.com will continue to monitor developments and report them to you, so please remember to check back often.