New legislation looks to increase access to medical cannabis

Virginia NORML, the state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says the commonwealth has made significant progress on medical cannabis in the 2019 legislative session.

Legislation is heading to Governor Ralph Northam's desk to expand access for patients to medical cannabis products. Senate bills 1557 and 1719 passed unanimously in both chambers.

These bills allow full therapeutic strength medical cannabis products to be dispensed by pharmaceutical processors. SB 1719 allows patients who are unable to get their medicine to be able to appoint someone to pick it up for them.

Another bill, SB 1632, allows registered student patients to take their medicine at school and have it administered by a school healthcare provider. Lastly, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants would be able to register to issue written certifications to medical cannabis patients under SB 1557.

"Gov. Northam has been very supportive of medical cannabis and expanding access to patients," said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director for Virginia NORML. "These bills will do just that, reducing health care costs for both patients and providers."

She added, "Ultimately this legislation will provide better healthcare outcomes for patients and the communities at large."

Pedini says the bills also expand the types of products patients will have access to, giving patients here in Virginia access to safe, full therapeutic strength medical cannabis products.

If the bills are signed by Governor Northam, they will go into effect on July 1.

Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, hopes that expanding the use of cannabis-derived medications will help combat the growing opioid crisis.

“Overdose deaths related to prescribed opiates have decreased by 25 percent in states where medical marijuana programs are available. The potential side effects and risks of medically administered CBD and THC-A are far lower than opiates and many pharmaceutical drugs currently requiring a doctor’s prescription,” Dunnavant’s website states.

CBD, or cannabidiol, and THC-A, or tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, are two of the main compounds in the cannabis sativa plant.

Both components interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body that affect mood, pain, and memory. Neither contain the properties that produce a high. When raw, TCH-A has no psychoactive effects; only when burned does it become THC. Hemp, also a cannabis plant, is more widely used for CBD oil for its very low level of THC.

CBD and THC-A oils are used by many people to treat anxiety, migraines, nausea and other health problems. THC-A oils can achieve the same results as CBD oil but are less potent.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not endorse any CBD or THC-A medication with the exception of Epidiolex, used to treat seizures from two rare forms of epilepsy. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says it will support further research by the FDA into different components of cannabis.

“DEA will continue to support sound and scientific research that promotes legitimate therapeutic uses for FDA-approved constituent components of cannabis, consistent with federal law,” said Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon in a press release.

________
Capital News Service contributed to this report.