In 2017, Virginia passed a law that allowed patients suffering from intractable epilepsy access to cannabidiol (CBD) or THC-A oil. Then, in 2018, this law was significantly expanded by HB 1251, signed by Gov. Ralph Northam on March 9, 2018 (and taking effect immediately due to an “emergency clause”).

What type of products are allowed?

Only oils are permitted, not whole plant cannabis, and these marijuana extracts must contain at least 15% of either cannabidiol (CBD) or THC-A and no more than 5% THC.

Aren’t THC-A and THC the same thing?

Not exactly. THC-A (Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in marijuana that converts to THC when heated (this is called decarboxylation), but in the process some of the THC-A is lost.

Are there any legal protections now?

Yes. In order to be protected, patients must have a “written certification” from their doctor, available online from the state Department of Health Professions. This provides only an “affirmative defense” from prosecution; it does not protect patients or caregivers from arrest or from federal law.

Do I have to register?

Yes. Once the registry is open, which is anticipated this summer, patients and the caregivers of minor or incapacitated adult patients must all register. The fee for each registrant will be $50.

Who can issue the certifications?

Currently, any doctor who is licensed to practice medicine or osteopathy in Virginia may issue certifications. Once the physician registry is open, these practitioners must register with the Board of Pharmacy in order to continue issuing certifications. Physicians will only be permitted to issue a set number of certifications as determined by rulemaking. Certifications are good for one year.

Who will produce the oils?

Applications for “pharmaceutical processors” are open until June 8, 2018. These businesses will be able to cultivate cannabis, manufacture the oils, and dispense them to patients. While a pharmacist must be in charge of each facility, the name is somewhat confusing since the cannabis oils cannot be sold in pharmacies.

When and where can I purchase the oils?

There will be five businesses permitted, distributed across the state. It is not clear when the oils will be available, but we predict that it will be in the summer of 2019 if the state moves at a reasonable pace.

How much oil will patients be permitted?

Pharmaceutical processors will permitted to dispense a “90-day supply” of the oil to each patient, the amount of which will be set by regulation.


Last updated: May 8, 2018