Virginia parents with children suffering from epilepsy may soon be permitted to have a non-intoxicating CBD oil that has shown effectiveness in controlling seizures. Last Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House of Delegates unanimously approved a measure, 98 to 0, that would allow parents of epileptic children to keep in their possession a surplus of CBD oil without running the risk of prosecution.

But legislators and activists on both sides of the marijuana issue cautioned against reading the House action as a sign that Virginia’s conservative Republican Party is warming to more liberal marijuana policies.

“It’s a very narrow bill that is tailored to a very specific medical condition,” said Bob Holsworth, a former Virginia Commonwealth University political scientist. “I think we’re far from going down the path of becoming Rocky Mountain high.”

The bill was written and rewritten in ways that show the legislature’s discomfort with liberalizing marijuana laws as much as its desire to help a heart-rending group of patients and their families. House Republicans showed no interest in fixing the unworkable medical marijuana law it has on the books, much less signing off on recreational use, as has been done in Colorado. A Senate bill to decriminalize marijuana died in committee this session, as did a broader medical marijuana bill proposed in the House.

While the advancement in Senate Bill 1235 is an obvious victory for parents of children with epilepsy, the move also indicates a shift in attitudes surrounding the marijuana laws in Virginia. State lawmakers, including Delegate Dave Albo, are pleased with the results of the vote, as it is the first piece of effective medical marijuana legislation in the state to earn such an outpouring of support.

Medical marijuana for the treatment of cancer and glaucoma has been legal in Virginia for many years, but there is no statewide program in place, and prescriptions are only available through a physician. Of course, this has crippled the possibility of receiving cannabis treatment because no doctor is willing to risk federal prosecution to write a prescription. However, the latest proposal offers to remedy this problem to some degree by eliminating the need for a prescription – the new law would simply require a certification to legally possess cannabis oil.

In addition to permitting the possession of CBD, the bill was initially written to change the current medical marijuana law, requiring only a cannabis certification for cancer and glaucoma patients. Yet, this concept frightened some lawmakers who expressed concerns over the amendment leading to a substantial amount of medical marijuana making it to the black market.

This legislation now goes before the Senate, who just last week passed a similar measure in a vote of 37 to 1. If it gains approval there, which is expected, it will be sent to the office of Governor Terry McAuliffe for either a signature, making it law, or a veto, which could send lawmakers back to the drawing board. However, a spokesperson for the governor has given every indication that the bills will be signed.

Natalie