by Jesse Scaccia, editor of AltDaily.com, founder of Decriminalize Norfolk, and a communications consultant associated with NORML
In a sign of just how far marijuana reform has come to the American political mainstream, it is a bipartisan coalition that is leading the way toward legalizing medical marijuana in the Commonwealth.
Possibly even at this year’s General Assembly session.
While Democrats like Senator Adam Ebbin have been ahead of the curve in introducing progressive legislation — only to see it killed year after year — it is the addition of Republicans to the chorus of voices calling for reform that has been key to seeing medical marijuana reform within striking distance of landmark advancements.
“Providers need access to every possible tool to help decrease patient suffering,” wrote Republican Senator Siobhan Dunnavant in a blog post advocating for “Doctors Decide” legislation. “These changes to current Virginia code will give licensed providers another tool to help treat their patients with the most appropriate and effective treatments possible.”
Dunnavant has shepherded SB 726 (“CBD oil and THC-A oil; certification for use; dispensing”) through the committee process. As a doctor, her voice on this medical issue has, rightfully, carried extra weight.
The bill would allow doctors to recommend the use of cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil to treat or alleviate the symptoms of any diagnosed condition or disease determined by the practitioner to benefit from such use.
“This would expand patient access to extraction-based cannabis medicines that will meet the need of Virginia’s most critically ill patients — as well as those suffering from everyday conditions like arthritis,” said Jenn Michelle Pedini, executive director of Virginia NORML.
Delegate Stephen E. Heretick, a Democrat, saw his decriminalization bill die in committee. There had been been hope for bipartisan support for decriminalization leading up to session. Those aspirations were dashed when Republican Senate Leader Tommy Norment pulled back from earlier statements that he would introduce — and support — a decrim bill.
Instead, Norment has presented an expungement bill.
The bill unanimously passed out of subcommittee. It could see a full committee vote by the end of the week before heading to the House floor.
No matter what progress is made at this year’s session — which runs through March 10 — the Virginia General Assembly will still lag behind public sentiment.
“Nine out of ten Virginians want this,” said Pedini.