Doctors in Virginia can now recommend medical marijuana if they decide it’s the best course of treatment for patients. Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday signed measures expanding the state’s cannabis oil program.
Patients will now have to wait until the first licensed providers of the oil are up and running. Katie Clifton heads the Roanoke Valley Chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) - a group seeking the reform of marijuana laws.
She expects that process to take about two years.
“The applications will be released, then there will be time for the people who are interested to apply for those applications, then you have actually have to build to the facility, which will be a seed to sale facility," she said. "You have to grow it, you have to process it, then you have to sell it. So it’s a very large project.”
Last year, lawmakers approved in-state production of the oil by five producers. Physicians can only recommend the drug. They can’t prescribe cannabis, which is still illegal under federal law.
But the new state law gives them the authority to decide what conditions to treat - which could include Crohn’s Disease or chronic pain. An earlier measure applied only to one kind of epilepsy.
The new law would also provide patients with a signed certificate if they were stopped by law enforcement – to defend their possession of the oil.
Virginia lawmakers did not pass legislation decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. Virginia NORML Executive Director Jenn Michelle Pedini says she doesn't expect that to happen until more Democrats are elected to Virginia's General Assembly.