Virginia General Assembly in full swing, modest reforms possible
Last update: January 25, 2017
The Virginia General Assembly began its 2017 legislative session on January 11, and lawmakers are already considering several marijuana policy reform bills. Sen. Adam Ebbin’s SB 1091 has already been reported favorably out of committee! If passed, it would end the automatic six-month driver’s license suspensions for Virginians convicted of a first-time minor marijuana possession offense. Ask your lawmakers to support this modest but important bill.
Last November, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R) made waves with his surprising announcement that he plans to file a bill to study the decriminalization of marijuana. Though his bill hasn’t been filed yet, this is a positive sign in the fight for reform. Unfortunately, however, two decriminalization bills have already died in committee.
Last year, the General Assembly approved a bill to allow licensed entities to produce cannabidiol oil, but it needs to pass again this year to become law. It has already passed in the House and now awaits moves by the Senate. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Dave Marsden, would allow patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to receive the oil with a written certification from their doctors.
Is this the year the Commonwealth finally sees reform? Please ask your lawmakers to show compassion for our sickest residents, including those with other serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, intractable pain, and PTSD. Medical marijuana is far less harmful and poses fewer negative side effects than most prescription drugs — especially painkillers — and patients often find it to be a more effective treatment. Tell your elected officials that the time for reform is now!
2015 saw the passage of HB 1445, an extremely narrow law that provides some relief to a very small percentage of the Commonwealth’s patients who could benefit from access to medical cannabis. It allows patients with intractable epilepsy to avoid a conviction, but not an arrest, for possessing certain low- or no-THC medical cannabis oils. It does not provide for any in-state access to these treatments, although access may be coming soon, as the above section explains.
A Quinnipiac poll released in April 2015 found that 86% of Virginia voters support the legalization of medical marijuana.
Please write your legislators and ask them to support the will of their constituents next session. You can ask them to call for the state to legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol, or to take a more modest reform such as citing and fining – rather than arresting and criminalizing – marijuana users.
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