Richmond, Va — Three new laws intended to expand patient access to and the therapeutic value of Virginia’s medical cannabis program take effect July 1, 2019.
“Patient access is critical to the success of Virginia’s medical cannabis program,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML. “These bills help ensure that all patients are able to obtain and use the necessary therapeutic doses of their cannabis medicines regardless of location or physical ability.”
PRODUCTS AND PRACTITIONERS
Virginia medical cannabis patients can now look forward to a greater range of products available in full therapeutic strengths thanks to Senator Dunnavant’s SB1557. Previously, Virginia’s five licensed medical cannabis providers, called pharmaceutical processors, would have been limited to dispensing only oils when they open their doors later this year. Now, patients can expect to see products typical of compounding pharmacies, like capsules, topicals, lozenges, lollipops, and suppositories, with an allowance of up to 10 milligrams of THC each.
“The historic passage of my Let Doctors Decide bill in 2018 allows practitioners to recommend medical cannabis for their patients as they see fit,” said Senator Dunnavant, a medical doctor from Henrico. “This year, my focus was on program improvements to further expand both access and therapeutic value to benefit the health and well-being of all Virginians."
SB1557 also allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants to register with the Board of Pharmacy to issue the necessary written certifications for medical cannabis to patients.
Senator Marsden’s SB1719 adds "registered agents” for those patients physically unable to pick up or receive delivery of their medical cannabis, like those in hospice, assisted living facilities, and those who rely on home healthcare providers. SB1719 ensures that patients will have greater access to the medicines they need, a key element of continuity needed for the success of any health system.
It is patients like Tamara Lyn Netzel, a teacher from Alexandria who suffers from multiple sclerosis, who stand to benefit from this legislation.
“Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease with severe symptoms that come and go, so I’ve accepted at some point I may not be able to drive a car safely or leave my home," said Netzel. "It is comforting to know I will still be able to send my husband to get the medicine I need."
"We continue to tweak the law regarding cannabis oils. This year, we created the ability for registered agents to receive the medicine in the name of the patient as many people are disabled and unable to come to the door to receive a delivery. We will continue to make use of these oils more user-friendly now that members of the General Assembly are confident in the safety of these products,” said Senator Marsden, of Fairfax County.
Companion bills by Delegate Chris Hurst, HB1720, and Senator Glen Sturtevant, SB1632, aren’t just progressive for Virginia, they’re progressive for the nation. Today, Virginia becomes the fourth state to allow school healthcare providers to administer medical cannabis to registered student patients just as they would any other medication.
“Virginia is moving in the right direction to ensure patients and doctors can choose treatments that are right for them. I’m proud that HB1720 will allow students on campus to legally and safely access their medication” said Delegate Hurst of District 12.
Virginia NORML has worked diligently alongside these legislators in their continued efforts to advance patient-focused medical cannabis policies.
“These common sense clarifications to the regulations will make for a smoother system, and better outcomes for patients, providers, and the community at large,” Pedini said of their success in the 2019 General Assembly.