With a whirlwind of medical marijuana bills crammed into a two-month General Assembly session, Virginians may see smoke billowing from its Capitol depending on the amount and pace of bills discussed and passed.
In discussions with VA NORML’s Director, Jenn Michelle Pedini, the focus for medical marijuana are companion bills SB-726 and HB-1251, dubbed “Let Doctors Decide.”
“Let Doctors Decide,” filed by Delegates Cline (R-34) and Davis (R-84) in the House and Senator Dunnavant (R-12), are recommended by the Joint Commission on Health Care. These bills remove the solo qualifying condition of intractable epilepsy from current Virginia law, allowing for Virginia doctors to recommend medical cannabis for any medical condition they see fit, in their professional opinion.
This legislation is an important and major leap forward for Virginia marijuana policy reform. It not only respects freedom of speech between doctors and patients, it also creates a path forward for Virginians to have better access to medical marijuana.
“Enacting this legislation will give physicians the opportunity to actively evaluate efficacy for their patients, and provide feedback on expanding the cannabinoid profiles past low-THC,” stated Pedini.
While this bill would move Virginia closer to a majority of states within the United States regarding medical marijuana policy, it still creates limited access to medicine. As filed, “Let Doctors Decide” allows patients limited access to THC-A and CBD oils with strict limits. This bill is an improvement from current laws, yet research shows states with the most access to medical cannabis see the best results in combating public health issues such as the opioid/addiction crisis and veteran suicide rates in the U.S.
As a U.S. Navy veteran who struggles with depression, suicide, and anxiety I know medical use of marijuana is a lifesaver. It saves me from myself every day and turned me from a Tidewater Community College dropout to a recent graduate with distinction from Old Dominion University. The anti-depressants and anti-anxiety pills from the Department of Veterans Affairs put me in a zombie-like state and made me act upon my suicidal ideations.
Since discovering medical marijuana, I have become more engaged in my own life, with my wife and kids and finally, with my community. My work on state legislation with Safe Access Virginia from 2013-15, and the federal level on such legislation as the Veterans Equal Access Amendment (now Veterans Equal Access Act) and CARERS Act 2015 has empowered me to continue fighting not only for myself – also for every American to have safe, legal and equal access to medical marijuana.
I have seen medical marijuana access in other states not only aid veterans in overcoming their own health struggles — it has also provided them with other tools. Fellow veterans have become employed in the burgeoning industry and support sectors, and become more engaged in civic activities such as volunteering and running for political office. This creates a holistic approach to combating many issues faced among veterans re-acclimating to the civilian environment.
While the current bills are not perfect in their creation, they are movement in the right direction. Once this session adjourns, advocates and legislators can work together for access to whole-plant medicine without a THC limit beyond oils and an expansion in the industry and production of medical marijuana. In continuing to make progress within the Commonwealth, Virginians need to speak up and contact their legislators.
Virginia NORML is providing exactly that opportunity this Sunday and Monday in Richmond at the Virginia 2018 Cannabis Conference (Sunday 1/21) and Lobby Day (Monday 1/22). More information can be located at their website, www.vanorml.org.