Richmond, VA – A unanimous 40-0 vote in the Virginia Senate on Monday saw the passage of a “Let Doctors Decide” bill, officially known as the Joint Commission on Health Care bill SB 726, which allows Virginia doctors to recommend the use of THC-A oil or cannabidiol oil – commonly referred to as CBD oil – as a treatment option for diagnosed conditions.
With companion legislation HB 1251 in the Virginia House of Delegates passing with a unanimous vote on Friday, and since both bills are identical, the bills will “crossover” to the opposite house for a vote, then head to the desk of Gov. Ralph Northam, also a doctor, who has previously voiced support for Let Doctors Decide medical marijuana laws in the Commonwealth.
“I finally decided that I needed to advocate for the physicians being the decision makers,” Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, a doctor who introduced the Senate bill, told the Staunton News Leader. “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.”
Sen. Dunnavant, who is a licensed physician in Virginia, said that she “always thought of it helping my patients that have breast cancer.” Many Virginians suffering from a plethora of conditions— including cancer, PTSD, Crohn’s disease and MS— lobbied for this reform, as current law allows Virginians to possess cannabis oil solely for the treatment of severe epilepsy.
“Honestly, until this week, I’ve always thought of it helping my patients that have breast cancer, especially the young ones that have children and have so many things to get done, but feel so terrible as they go through chemotherapy,” Sen. Dunnavant continued. “After this week, I won’t be able to forget Tamra Netzel, the patient and my constituent with multiple sclerosis that testified on behalf of this bill in committee. My niece also has MS and having the opportunity to help others in similar situations means a lot to me.”
Delegate Benjamin L. Cline, who introduced the House bill, explained both the medical benefits of CBD/THC-A oil and the foresight in giving doctors the ability to “make recommendation based on the most up to date research and data.”
“CBD/THC-A oil has been proven to effectively and safely help patients address symptoms of intractable epilepsy and manage pain,” Cline told the Staunton News Leader. “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 data, just as they do for any other medication they prescribe.”
Additionally, Jenn Michelle Pedini, both a cancer survivor and the executive director of Virginia NORML, addressed the significant impact of medical cannabis laws on Virginia’s growing opiate epidemic.
“Medical cannabis laws have demonstrated significant impact on the opiate crisis,” Pedini told the News Leader. “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.”
If Gov. Ralph Northam signs the bill into law, Virginia could serve as an exemplary model of a state with a limited medical marijuana program embracing an expansive reform.
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