Lawmakers push medical cannabis oil legislation through General Assembly

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia is on its way to expanding the use of medical cannabis oils.

Right now, doctors in the commonwealth can only issue certifications for patients with intractable epilepsy.

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed that legislation in 2015, which decriminalized the use of such oils for those particular patients.

But two bills making their way through the General Assembly right now would open it up to any diagnosed condition a doctor sees fit.

“Doctors are best suited to make these health care decisions. Probably not our legislature,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini.

Pedini is executive director of Virginia NORML, the state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. She has been fighting for this legislation dubbed the “Let Doctors Decide” bill.

SB 726 was introduced by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico). Del. Ben Cline (R-Rockbridge) introduced its counterpart, HB 1251.

Aside from epilepsy, Pedini said these oils have been used for things like Crohn’s Disease, cancer and Multiple Sclerosis.

“Now all of these patients will have access to these oils in state and protection from prosecution,” said Pedini.

Pedini said other states that have done this have seen a decline in prescription pills and opioid overdoses.

Both the House and the Senate versions of the bill passed unanimously.

The Senate bill is heading back for a final vote on an emergency clause, which should make the legislation effective as soon as the governor signs it.

Most bills that are passed go into effect July 1.

“The governor has expressed his support for medical marijuana and its potential for alleviating the symptoms of illnesses beyond intractable epilepsy,” Gov. Ralph Northam’s press secretary said in a statement. “This is a step in the right direction.”

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