Virginia is no longer one of the most restrictive medical cannabis states. A bill which makes any condition a qualifying condition for medical cannabis oils became law on March 9.
The bill, known as Let Doctors Decide, went into effect as soon as Governor Ralph Northam signed it thanks to an emergency clause he recommended. The measure—titled HB 1251 in the House of Delegates and SB 726 in the Senate—passed unanimously in both houses of the legislature.
The new regulations allow patients with any diagnosed illness to receive a recommendation from their doctor for the use of cannabidiol and THC-A oils, both of which are non-psychoactive. THC levels in these medicines cannot exceed 5 percent. Under a previous bill, passed in 2017, only those with treatment-resistant epilepsy were allowed to use cannabis oils as a treatment.
While the law’s passage is a major step forward for patients, it’s important to note that it doesn’t actually make the recommended cannabinoids legal. Instead, it protects registered patients from prosecution, provided they have the required paperwork to present to law enforcement. Doctors will not prescribe cannabis oils but “recommend” them, since only medicines approved by the FDA can be prescribed.
The oils recommended will be produced and distributed within the state exclusively by five licensed manufacturers known as “pharmaceutical processors.”
Doctors must undergo an educational program specific to cannabinoids in order to be able to recommend them, while patients will have to register to take part in the program. An annual fee of $50 will apply to both.
According to the News Leader, Virginia activists played a large role in the passage of the bill, with Nikki Narduzzi, director of Cannabis Commonwealth, and Virginia NORML lobbying lawmakers together since 2015.