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Did Virginia just legalize medical marijuana?

The Virginia House and Senate have unanimously passed HB1251 and SB726, respectively, to expand Virginia’s medical cannabis oil program from the single qualifying condition of intractable epilepsy to any diagnosed condition. The legislation provides an affirmative defense for possession, and does not make possession legal. The bills have crossed over to the other chambers and must now pass those before heading to the Governor’s desk.

Will Governor Northam sign the bills?

Yes, Governor Northam is a medical doctor, and many times has publicly stated that he believes physicians should be able to recommend medical cannabis as they see fit.

When will the law take effect?

Governor Northam has added an emergency clause to the bills. As soon as their final passage in the House and Senate occurs, the bills will go directly to his desk for signature and immediate enactment, expanding the affirmative defense for possession to all patients with written certifications.

What’s affirmative defense?

Affirmative defense defeats or mitigates the legal consequences of the defendant’s otherwise unlawful conduct. While it will not be legal, technically, to possess the oils, a patient or their caregiver would be able to present their signed certificate if they were stopped by law enforcement or in a court of law as their defense for possession of the oil.

How will patients get medical cannabis oil?

In 2017, Virginia approved a regulatory program for the in-state production of medical cannabis oil by five providers, one per Health Service Area, who will grow, extract, dispense and deliver the medical cannabis oils. These licensed providersare called “pharmaceutical processors” in the Code, and are simply vertically-integrated dispensaries, meaning everything from growth through dispensation is done on one site by one provider. Once operational, patients will register with the program and then be able to fill their recommendation at one of five “pharmaceutical processors” in the Virginia. 

Will doctors write prescriptions for medical cannabis?

No, it is legally inaccurate to use the word “prescription.” Practitioners will recommendthe oils, not prescribe them. Prescribe is reserved for FDA-regulated products, and means to write a prescription on a DEA-numbered prescription pad.

When will my doctor be able to write me a recommendation?

Once the licenses are awarded, the facilities will have one year to become operational. The request for proposals (RFP) for facilities applications will open March according to the most recent information offered by the Board of Pharmacy. They will likely take many months to review the applications. Hopefully, Virginia will have operational facilities sometime late next year.

How do I find a doctor who knows about medical cannabis?

Talk to your doctor and ask if she knows about the coming change in law. Share the with her the eighth edition of Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids, A Review of Scientific Literature.

Follow Cannabis Commonwealth for up-to-date patient and provider information as the program rolls out.

Are the oils psychoactive?

Yes, psychoactive means to cause a change in the brain. Psychoactive does notmean intoxicating, psychotropic or hallucinogenic. (Also, marijuana is nothallucinogenic). If CBD were not psychoactive, it would not be a mild antidepressant nor possess anti-seizure capabilities. It is accurate to instead say the oils are non-intoxicating.

Isn't this just for CBD oil?

No, Virginia will produce whole-plant cannabis extractions. The oils must contain at least 15% CBD or at least 15% THCA-A and may contain no more than 5% THC.

Isn’t CBD already legal in all 50 states?

No, cannabidiol (CBD) is a marijuana extract and therefore classified as a schedule 1 drug. The DEA has recently clarified its position that CBD will remain in schedule 1.

Yeah, but if it’s from hemp it's totally legal, right?

No, cannabinoids, including CBD, once extracted from the flowers of drug (cannabis) or hemp (industrial) plants are considered marijuana extracts and therefore illegal schedule 1 drugs. CBD is not derived from stalks or seeds. It is not legal if it is extracted from a drug or industrial plant that meets the legal THC threshold for hemp. CBD is federally illegal, period.

But you can already buy CBD oil online!

That doesn’t make it federally legal. The CBD products you’re buying from Amazon, Walmart or the pet store are made from crystalline isolate reconstituted in a carrier oil. CBD is isolated from cannabis extracts and crystalized, usually in China or Spain, and then imported to the US. It is then mixed into a food-grade oil like hemp or olive, and then sold by retailers. Labeling the product “hemp oil” or "hemp extract" does not make it legal. These products are not required to meet any safety, quality, consistency, or labeling standards. Buyer beware!