Southern States Waking Up to CBD
The CBD locomotive continues chugging along its path towards legality across the United States, next stop: Virginia. Once the original home of hemp, Virginia was the location of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate where he famously grew hemp, among several other founding fathers.1 Even the original colonial farmers were required to grow hemp in order to help supply the British Royal Navy with fiber for rope.2 Hemp was one of the original cash crops grown and utilized in the newly minted United States of America. Not many of those in opposition of cannabis, hemp included, are aware that the backbone of this country was built upon a plant we now deem illegal.
In a surprising stance, the State Senate of Virginia unanimously voted – 40 to 0 – in favor of passing the medical cannabis bill.3 The Senate decided to pass the Joint Commission of Health Care bill, surely all pun intended, back on February 5th which will put the power back in the hands of physicians to decide whether a patient will benefit from cannabidiol (CBD) or THC-A oil.4 This bill stands to challenge the general idea and connotation that cannabis compounds serve little to no purpose when it comes to medical acceptance. And for a state, and region, not necessarily associated with such progressive ideas, this bill hopes to usher in a new era of cannabis acceptance.
Prior to this bill passage, Virginia was one of 30 states to pass legislation that came on the heels of the Obama administration’s 2014 Farm Bill. This bill allowed state departments of agriculture to begin applying for a license to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. Virginia, along with several other states, were some of the first states to pass legislation that allowed them to develop their own hemp research programs; Virginia passed legislation back in 2015. Even though our country was founded on the stalks of the hemp plant, state departments are still having to apply for licenses just to begin hemp research. Not to mention the lengthy process and long turnaround time it takes to go from application to seed germination.
Following suit of states such as Indiana and soon-to-be Texas, Virginia will be the next Jenga puzzle piece atop the CBD stack that only continues to mount higher and higher. Dubbed the “Let Doctors Decide” bill, several politicians played key roles in enabling the passing of the legislation.5 Senator Siobhan Dunnavant, also a doctor, stated, “We, physicians, are the ones that follow the literature and know which treatments are best for different conditions.The literature on medical cannabis is going to be evolving rapidly now, and because of this, it is not a decision that should be in the hands of the legislature. Instead, it should be with physicians.” Dunnavant is just one of many state legislatures that is looking hopeful towards the future of cannabis acceptance as a mainstream alternative form of medicine.
Nikki Narduzzi, a longtime advocate for medical marijuana legalization in Virginia and the patient coalition director at Cannabis Commonwealth, said House delegate Benjamin L. Cline “was the perfect advocate to have on our side.” The chief patron of the House bill, Cline is in full agreeance on the potential medicinal benefits of CBD. “CBD/THC-A oil has been proven to effectively and safely help patients address symptoms of intractable epilepsy and manage pain,” said Cline. “By expanding the ability to recommend CBD/THC-A oil, we are giving doctors the freedom to make a recommendation based on the most up to date research and date, just as they do for any other medication they prescribe.” The power for patients and physicians to work jointly in an effort to provide the best form of treatment is a necessary part of the process towards complete cannabis reformation.
Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director of Virginia NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and two-time cancer survivor, believes the bills passage will not only help Virginians stay close to home when seeking medical treatment, but also has the potential to significantly reduce the opioid addiction crisis. “All Virginians deserve access to safe, regulated medical cannabis,” said Pedini. “These bills will ensure that Virginians have the ability to stay here at home with their families, with their support networks and not be forced to move to another state in the middle of a healthcare crisis to seek medical cannabis therapies.” But that’s not where the medical improvements stop. “Medical cannabis laws have demonstrated significant impact on the opiate crisis,” Pedini shared. “States with such laws see on average a 25% reduction in opioid fatalities. We are losing three Virginians every day to opioid overdose. It’s time to give doctors in the Commonwealth the ability to utilize this powerful tool in mitigating addiction and overdose.” In 2017 alone, an average of 19 people died a week in the state of Virginia as a result of opioid overdose;6 and that doesn’t even take into account the large inflation of deaths between 2015 and 2016.7 The potential cannabis cure comes at a time when the opioid crisis seems to fill news headlines every week with countless more overdose deaths.
The next stop for the bill is the desk of Governor Ralph Northam, who is also a doctor and has previously stated he would support the passing of a medical marijuana law.8 This could be a historic legislation passage as Virginia would be the first state with such strict restrictive programs to pass a bill of this magnitude. And in a day and age where so much depends on what powerful players are involved, a Virginia state cannabis law would go a long way to proving the relevance of legislative reform.
Virginia pre-approved regulatory programs for in-state growth and production of medical cannabis by five different providers. These pharmaceutical processors are responsible for all on-site processes including growing, extracting, dispensing, and delivering cannabis oil. Once officially up and running, patients will just have to register with these programs and will then have the opportunity to fill out any medical recommendations. Doctors must obtain Continuing Medical Education credits towards medical cannabis in order to prescribe it to their patients. Patient and physician annual registration fee will only be $50.
The sun is beginning to set on the antiquated views of the War on Drugs past and we will all soon be joining Virginia in waking up to a bright, new CBD and medical marijuana horizon. Rise and shine, America!