VA: HB 1251 Expands Use Of Medical Marijuana

Photo Credit: Erica Brechtelsbauer

The newly passed Virginia House Bill 1251 allows medical practitioners to issue a written certificate for the use of cannabidiol and THC-A, which are oils derived from cannabis for medical use.

In 2015, a law was passed for doctors to treat epilepsy with cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil. This new bill expands that protection for any diagnosed condition or disease to be alleviated with these treatments.

“The doctor would then sign a certificate that the patient could keep with their cannabis oil. That certificate then acts as a legal defense in the case that one might get caught up in law enforcement,” said Scott McLellan, with Harrisonburg NORML.

These medications can be used for chronic pain and improve quality of life.

“For someone who may have Parkinson’s, Crohn’s, cancer, things like that, who may take other drugs where the side effects are too great for them,” said McLellan. “Those people have taken, you know, 12 different kinds of medications at once, and they start using medical marijuana and then they only use that and that seems to provide greater relief for them.”

The affirmative defense only applies to oil products, which are not intoxicating, psychotropic, or hallucinogenic.

“You can’t get high off it the way you would if you smoked marijuana,” explained McLellan.

The latest poll shows that 93 percent of Virginians support doctor-recommend medical cannabis, and HB 1251 passed unanimously.

To use your affirmative defense certificate, get it signed by a physician and keep it with your oil at all times. If questioned by law enforcement, present your certificate. If not accepted and charged with possession, call an attorney or ask for court-appointed counsel. Present your signed certificate ten days prior to trial as directed.

It is legally inaccurate to use the word “prescription” in this case; practitioners will recommend the oils rather than prescribe them.

The request for applications (RFA) for pharmaceutical processors opened on April 16th, and licenses for facilities are scheduled to be awarded in September. The Executive Director of Virginia NORML says the earliest facilities would open in Virginia would be 2019.

Most bills passed by the General Assembly do not take effect until the soonest July; but lawmakers signed an emergency adoption order for this bill, allowing it to take effect immediately upon Governor Ralph Northam’s signature, which came on March 9.

It’s worth nothing that cannabis oil is still classified as a controlled substance by the federal government, however, making it technically illegal on a national level. The oils, to meet the definitions set in this legislation, must contain at least 15% CBD or THC-A, but can’t contain more than 5% THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.