Virginia lawmakers in the Senate and House of Delegates approved a bill that would ensure that no person is arrested, persecuted, or denied any right or privilege in participating in the state’s medical cannabis program. Sen. David Marsden’s legislation, SB 1015, now heads to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk for signature.
Marsden told The Associated Press, “If a laboratory is going to handle a drug that is marijuana, they need immunity from prosecution. Even if we go into decriminalization, that still has some civil penalties for it.”
Currently, patients who participate in Virginia’s medical cannabis program are only afforded an affirmative defense, so patients and processors can still be charged and arrested. NORML reports that the original affirmative defense law was passed in 2015 for intractable epilepsy and expanded in 2018 for any condition as recommended by a practitioner. Virginia first approved a regulatory program for the in-state production of medical cannabis oils in 2017.
Later this year, five facilities—referred to as “pharmaceutical processors”—are expected to become operational with the ability to grow and dispense medical cannabis in the state.
A similar bill, known as SB 185, would allow employees at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospices to administer CBD and THC-A oil to residents. Last week, the House unanimously voted to approve the bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant. It has already passed the Senate in a unanimous vote.
Already, Virginia allows medical cannabis in schools. Del. Chris L. Hurst’s bill from last year, HB 1720, permits school nurses and those employed by a local health department or a local school board to possess and distribute cannabidiol oil or THC-A oil to students.
In an interview with The Outlaw Report, Jenn Michelle Pedini, development director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and executive director of Virginia NORML, said that there are additional bills worth keeping an eye on. The most notable one is Sen. Adam Ebbin’s SB 2, which is expected to make Virginia the twenty-seventh state to decriminalize cannabis. This legislation would reduce the punishment of simple cannabis possession to a $50 civil penalty or five hours of community service. Both the Senate and House have already approved the bill.
For a comprehensive list of cannabis-related legislation in the 2020 Virginia General Assembly, head to Virginia NORML’s website for more information.